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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA EX REL. RUSSELL GIBSON v. ATTILLIO DIGIACINTO (12/23/81)

decided: December 23, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA EX REL. RUSSELL GIBSON, APPELLANT,
v.
ATTILLIO DIGIACINTO, WARDEN OF NORTHAMPTON COUNTY PRISON



No. 243 January Term, 1979, Appeal from Judgment of Superior Court at No. 8 October Term, 1978, Affirming Order of Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Northampton County, at No. 56 January Term, 1977

COUNSEL

Margaret H. Poswistilo, Asst. Public Defender, for appellant.

Edward G. Ruyak, Bethlehem, for appellee.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman, and Wilkinson, JJ.

Author: O'brien

[ 497 Pa. Page 67]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant, Russell Gibson, was involuntarily committed to Farview State Hospital [hereinafter "Farview"] pursuant to the Mental Health Procedures Act [hereinafter "Act"].*fn1 The Superior Court affirmed the commitment on December 14, 1978. Com. ex rel Russell Gibson v. DiGiacinto, 261 Pa. Super. 53, 395 A.2d 938 (1978). We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal.

As a result of his behavior in a youth home, appellant was committed to Easton Hospital under ยง 302 of the Act on

[ 497 Pa. Page 68]

January 14, 1977. Although he escaped the next day, appellant was admitted to Allentown State Hospital four days later.*fn2 On February 3, 1977, it was determined that appellant did not require further hospitalization. Six weeks later appellant was arrested and charged with burglary, criminal mischief and criminal attempt to commit arson. The attempted arson charge was dismissed at the preliminary hearing and appellant pleaded guilty to charges of criminal mischief and criminal trespass*fn3 on June 29, 1977. Following the guilty plea proceeding the hearing court deferred sentencing and ordered a psychiatric evaluation as part of appellant's pre-sentence report. Appellant returned to Northampton County Prison to await sentencing.

The court-appointed psychiatrist filed a report with the Court recommending continuous treatment for appellant. On July 26, 1977, the warden of Northampton County Prison filed a petition for the involuntary commitment of appellant. A hearing was held before a mental health officer and appellant was involuntarily committed to Farview for a period not to exceed ninety days. The Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County held a hearing de novo and also ordered appellant's commitment.

At the hearing there was psychiatric testimony in addition to testimony describing appellant's behavior while in the county jail. A psychiatrist who examined appellant and testified for the Commonwealth described appellant as schizophrenic with paranoid delusions. He further expressed the opinion that appellant posed a clear and present danger to himself and others.

The court also heard testimony of specific instances of appellant's behavior that allegedly resulted from mental illness. First, a correction officer at Northampton County Prison ...


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