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Government of Virgin Islands v. Wallace

decided: June 1, 1982.

GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
v.
DAYTON WALLACE, APPELLANT



ON APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS DIVISION OF ST. THOMAS AND ST. JOHN

Before Garth, Circuit Judge, Rosenn, Senior Circuit Judge, and Higginbotham, Circuit Judge.

Author: Garth

Opinion OF THE COURT

Dayton Wallace, an insanity acquittee, appeals from an order entered February 26, 1981 by the District Court of the Virgin Islands terminating his conditional release from confinement and recommitting him to the custody of mental health officials.*fn1

In this appeal, Wallace does not challenge the propriety of his initial commitment or recommitment, but argues instead that the statute under which he was committed, V.I. Code Ann. tit. 5, § 3637 (1967), and the February 26 order violate the due process and equal protection guarantees of the United States Constitution and the Virgin Islands Revised Organic Act of 1954, 48 U.S.C. § 1561 (1976), by failing to provide adequate procedural protections against his being confined longer than necessary.

The district court, although rejecting Wallace's claims, ordered that counsel be appointed for Wallace and that hospital reports be furnished to the court every six months as to Wallace's mental condition. We affirm.

I.

On August 26, 1969, Wallace stabbed his grandmother to death. On March 17, 1970, he was found not guilty of first-degree murder by reason of mental illness and was committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., for restraint, treatment, and detention, not to be discharged until the district court "shall be satisfied that (Wallace) has regained his capacity for judgment, discretion and control of the conduct of his affairs and social relations." App. at 5.

On April 23, 1980, the district court granted Wallace a conditional release from St. Elizabeths Hospital. On September 5, 1980, the hospital recommended that Wallace be returned to his home community in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and that he be continued on conditional release status under the supervision of the Virgin Islands Department of Health. On September 25, 1980, following a sanity hearing held at the request of the Department of Health, the district court ordered Wallace's conditional release.

On February 19, 1981, at the request of the Government of the Virgin Islands, another sanity hearing was held. At this hearing, the court found that Wallace continued to suffer from mental illness, that he had regressed from the time of his conditional release on September 25, 1980, and that his present condition "constitute(d) a danger, possibly homicidal, to others." Id. at 13. The court rejected Wallace's claim that he was entitled to periodic hearings initiated by the court or prosecution to review his commitment. Id. at 38-48.

The district court did, however, advise Wallace that it would extend to his case the practice it had established of requiring periodic reports on the status of persons civilly committed, that these reports would be distributed to counsel, and that counsel could then take whatever steps he deemed necessary. Id. at 31, 46. On February 26, 1981, after the hearing to which we have referred above, the court entered an order recommitting Wallace to St. Elizabeths Hospital and requiring the Virgin Islands Commissioner of Health and the Administrator of the Hospital to provide the court with "a written report on the status of Dayton Wallace, no later than six months from the date of this Order, and every six months thereafter until further Order" of the court. Id. at 16. Wallace filed a notice of appeal from this order on March 6, 1981.

On August 4, 1981, subsequent to the filing of the instant appeal, the district court ordered that John E. Stout and Thomas D. Ireland, Wallace's counsel at trial and in the sanity hearings, "continue to represent defendant Dayton Wallace as co-counsel in any and all proceedings in connection herewith." Id. at 18.*fn2

II ...


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