PEOPLE v. BROCK

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District Court of Appeal, Fifth District, California.

PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff, Appellant and Respondent, v. Joseph O. BROCK and Vera G. Brock, Defendants, Respondents and Appellants. *

Civ. 19.

Decided: December 21, 1961

Stanley Mosk, Atty. Gen., Edward M. Belasco, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff, appellant and respondent. Young, Wooldridge & Paulden, by Robert Self, Bakersfield, for defendants, respondents and appellants.

Billy Floyd Brock, son of defendants, was charged with murder. He entered the single plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and his case was tried to the court without a jury, pursuant to Penal Code, section 1026. The court found that Billy Floyd Brock was ‘insane at the time of the commission of the offense as charged,’ and made the following order:

‘It Is Therefore Ordered, Adjudged And Decreed, that the defendant Billy Floyd Brock was insane at the time of the commission of the offense, that the criminal proceedings pending against said defendant be suspended until such time as the defendant is returned to this court for further proceedings, that the said Billy Floyd Brock be committed to the Department of Mental Hygiene for placement in a State Hospital;

‘It Is Further Ordered that the defendant be restrained with the same degree of security as in effect at said State Hospital for the criminally insane as a person dangerous to be at large for the health and safety of others.

‘It Is Further By The Court Ordered, that at such time, if ever, the defendant should be released from the State Hospital, he be returned to this court for further proceedings.’

The foregoing order was made August 8, 1958. On March 17, 1960, The People, as plaintiff, filed this action against defendants, the mother and father of Billy, to collect $3,221.61 for the boy's hospitalization at Atascadero State Hospital. The court found the defendants liable under the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code, section 6650, but it also found the defendants financially unable to pay ‘because of the limitation of their income and the amount of their living expenses.’ Judgment was entered in favor of defendants.

Plaintiff, The People, appeal from the judgment, taking the position that the court was correct in its finding that defendants are liable for the charges, but that the court erred by its additional finding and conclusion that defendants are relieved of the liability by reason of their inability to pay. Defendants then appealed upon the ground the court erred in finding them liable in the first instance.

Taking up the question of defendants' liability first, we turn to Welfare and Institutions Code, section 6650, which would seem to settle the matter since it is therein provided that:

‘Liability for care. The husband, wife, father, mother, or children of a mentally ill person or inebriate, the estates of such persons, and the guardian and administrator of the estate of such mentally ill person or inebriate, shall cause him to be properly and suitably cared for and maintained, and shall pay the costs and charges of his transportation to a state institution for the mentally ill or inebriates. The husband, wife, father, mother, or children of a mentally ill person or inebriate, and the administrators of their estates, and the estate of such mentally ill person or inebriate, shall be liable for his care, support, and maintenance in a state institution of which he is an inmate. The liability of such persons and estates shall be a joint and several liability, and such liability shall exist whether the mentally ill person or inebriate has become an inmate of a state institution pursuant to the provisions of this code or pursuant to the provisions of Sections 1026, 1368, 1369, 1370, and 1372 of the Penal Code.’ (Emphasis added.)

The constitutionality of this section and related sections of the Welfare and Institutions Code was determined by the Supreme Court in Department of Mental Hygiene v. McGilvery, 50 Cal.2d 742, 329 P.2d 689. (See, also, Dept. of Mental Hygiene v. Rosse, 187 Cal.App.2d 283, 9 Cal.Rptr. 589.) Defendants, however, contend they are exonerated by section 6650.5 of Welfare and Institutions Code, which reads:

‘Criminal prosecutions; insanity of defendant at time of commission of offense; commitment; liability for care

‘If in a criminal prosecution a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, and it is found that such person was insane at the time he committed the offense but has recovered his sanity, and he is committed to a state hospital because of his insanity at the time of commission of the offense, neither such person nor his estate nor his relatives shall be liable for such person's care, support, or maintenance in such state hospital.’ (Emphasis added.)

Thus, the pivotal question is the interpretation of the language, ‘but has recovered his sanity.’

It would appear from the record in this action that Billy did not recover his sanity prior to the proceedings under Penal Code, section 1026, and that he has not recovered since. The court made the following finding:

‘III Billy Floyd Brock was insane at the time of his commitment by the Superior Court on August 13, 1958 and has remained insane since that time.’

Where an appeal is taken on the judgment roll alone, as here, it must be presumed that the trial court received sufficient evidence to support its findings. (White v. Jones, 136 Cal.App.2d 567, 571, 288 P.2d 913; Miller v. Wood, 188 Cal.App.2d 711, 712, 10 Cal.Rptr. 770.)

Defendants argue that the findings cannot control, despite the absence of a record, because in the criminal proceeding which resulted in Billy's commitment to Atascadero, the court could not have tried the boy on his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity had he not recovered his sanity at the time of trial. Defendants recognize that California utilizes different and decidedly distinct standards in judging criminal insanity as contrasted with general insanity. The rule in California applicable to the trial of a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, known as the M'Naughton Rule, is summarized in People v. Rittger, 54 Cal.2d 720, 731, 7 Cal.Rptr. 901, 907, 355 P.2d 645, 651, as follows:

‘Legal Insanity. The basic rule of Queen v. M'Naughton (1843), supra, 4 St.Tr. (N.S.) 847, 931, M'Naughton's Case (1843), 10 Clark & Fin. 200, 210, 8 Eng.Rep. 718, 722, as stated by this court last year (in People v. Nash (1959), supra, 52 Cal.2d 36, 39, 338 P.2d 416, footnote 1) is that a person is, in law, incapable of crime if ‘at the time the accused committed the act he was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of his act or, if he did know it, that he did not know that he was doing what was wrong.”

On the other hand, the general term insanity which is synonomous with mental illness (W & I Code, § 5041), is defined by section 5040, Welfare and Institutions Code, as follows:

‘Mentally ill persons defined. ‘Mentally ill persons' means persons who come within either or both of the following descriptions:

‘(a) Who are of such mental condition that they are in need of supervision, treatment, care, or restraint.

‘(b) Who are of such mental condition that they are dangerous to themselves or to the person or property of others, and are in need of supervision, treatment, care, or restraint.’

That a person might be insane within the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code, section 5040, and yet be sane enough to be tried for a criminal offense under the so-called M'Naughton Rule is apparent from Penal Code section 1026, which specifically provides, in part:

‘If the verdict or finding be that the defendant was insane at the time the offense was committed, the court unless it shall appear to the court that the defendant has fully recovered his sanity shall direct that the defendant be confined in the State hospital for the criminal insane, * * *.’

Still a third definition has evolved by judicial interpretation of the word ‘sanity’ as used in Penal Code, § 1368, which forbids the trial of a defendant if a doubt as to his sanity arises pending the action and prior to judgment. When used in this sense, the word sanity has been given a meaning which differs from both the M'Naughton Rule and the Welfare and Institutions Code. The Court held, in People v. Jenson, 43 Cal.2d 572, at page 576, 275 P.2d 25, 28:

‘A defendant is sane within the meaning of this section if he is able to understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings taken against him and to conduct his own defense in a rational manner.’

Considering the varying interpretations of the word insanity, it is not surprising that in this State many mentally ill persons have been convicted of the commission of a crime. The most extreme example, perhaps, is People v. Willard, 150 Cal. 543, 89 P. 124, 126, in which case the defendant, minutes after having been ordered committed to a hospital for the insane as ‘homicidal and dangerous,’ shot the sheriff as he was leaving the judge's chambers. As a result of the gunshot would the sheriff died. Willard was tried for murder, convicted, and the conviction affirmed on appeal. Thus, in our case it does not follow as a matter of law that Billy had regained his sanity at the time of trial simply because he was tried pursuant to Penal Code, section 1026.

Defendants next assert that the Legislature, by using the words ‘but has recovered his sanity’ in Welfare and Institutions Code, section 6650.5, meant sanity under either the M'Naughton Rule or the rule expressed in People v. Jensen, supra, not general insanity. To us the argument is implausible. In the first place, had the Legislature intended the interpretation defendants place on Welfare and Institutions Code, section 6650.5, specific language would have been used to accomplish that end. Further, if defendants' interpretation were adopted, the effect would be to remove all commitments pursuant to Penal Code, section 1026 from the purview of Welfare and Institutions Code, section 6650. Had this been the intention of the Legislature we must assume that concurrently with the enactment of section 6650.5, section 6650 would have been amended by deleting therefrom commitments pursuant to Penal Code, section 1026.

Persuasive, also, is the unjust result which would follow from defendants' contention. The responsible relatives of a person committed to a State hospital pursuant to the Welfare and Institutions Code would be liable for his care, while the responsible relatives of a mentally ill person whose hospitalization resulted from the commission of a crime, would be relieved of liability. Each patient would be insane, each would receive the same hospital care which, in turn, would give rise to identical costs and charges, yet the responsible relatives of the one who had committed a crime would escape liability.

Defendants ask what purpose could there be for Welfare and Institutions Code, § 6650.5 unless it is to remove Penal Code, § 1026 commitments from Welfare and Institutions Code, § 6650? The only reasonable explanation appears to be that Welfare and Institutions Code, § 6650.5 provides relief for responsible relatives of defendants in criminal cases committed pursuant to Penal Code, § 1026 where (a) the defendant has feigned insanity and the relatives are not paying for the care of a truly mentally ill person; (b) the defendant has been mistakenly committed as insane; (c) the defendant has regained his sanity while in the hospital, but his release has been delayed. The section has nothing to do with securing the release of the committed person. It merely provides a defense to a claim for charges and costs imposed upon responsible relatives by Welfare and Institutions Code, § 6650.

The burden of proving sanity under Welfare and Institutions Code, section 6650.5 follows the well established rule that the burden of establishing an affirmative defense is upon the person asserting it. In our case the burden rested on defendants. As shown by the findings, they failed to meet this burden.

The other aspect of the appeal concerns the remission of the charges by the trial court after finding them to be justly due under Welfare and Insitutions Code, section 6650. This dispensation was beyond the jurisdiction of the court to grant. Section 6651 vests in the Director of Mental Hygiene the sole authority to ‘reduce, cancel or remit the amount to be paid by the estate or the relatives' for the care of the patient. The record before us does not disclose that defendants made any application to the Director for remission of the charges, or that the Director ever took any action to remit the charges assessed against defendants as responsible relatives. Absent the initial proceeding or application to the Director of Mental Hygiene, the court was powerless to remit the amount found to be owing by defendants to plaintiff.

The judgment is reversed.

I regretfully concur in the reversal of the judgment. I say ‘regretfully,’ because I do not believe that section 6650.5 of the Welfare and Institutions Code says what the Legislature intended it to say.

Section 1026 of the Penal Code, in effect for many years, is crystal clear in its direction to a trial judge in a criminal case when the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is upheld. The section reads, in part:

‘If the verdict or finding be that the defendant was sane at the time the offense was committed, the court shall sentence the defendant as provided by law. If the verdict or finding be that the defendant was insane at the time the offense was committed, the court unless it shall appear to the court that the defendant has fully recovered his sanity shall direct that the defendant be confined in the State hospital for the criminal insane, or if there be no such State hospital, then that he be confined in some other State hospital for the insane. If, however, it shall appear to the court that the defendant has fully recovered his sanity such defendant shall be remanded to the custody of the sheriff until his sanity shall have been finally determined in the manner prescribed by law.’

In the criminal case involved here, the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity was sustained. The fact that the court committed Billy Floyd Brock to a State hospital necessarily infers that he had not fully recovered his sanity; there would be no other justification for the court to commit him to a State hospital.

Section 6650.5 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, as enacted by the Legislature in 1957, reads as follows:

‘If in a criminal prosecution a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, and it is found that such person was insane at the time he committed the offense but has recovered his sanity, and he is committed to a state hospital because of his insanity at the time of commission of the offense, neither such person nor his estate nor his relatives shall be liable for such person's care, support, or maintenance in such state hospital.’ (Emphasis added.)

The assumption is compelled that the Legislature intended to enact a code provision which would place a defendant so committed to a State hospital in the same category as a prisoner in a State prison insofar as any duty of relatives to support him in the institution is concerned. However, the Legislature did not say that, but enacted a provision which is clearly not applicable to a commitment to a State hospital in the circumstances shown by the record. If a defendant has recovered his sanity he is not sent to a State hospital, and if he is sent to a State hospital, it is not ‘* * * because of his insanity at the time of commission of the offense, * * *’ but because of his insanity at the time of the commitment. I know of no principal of statutory construction that would permit the amendment by the court of a statutory provision which on its face is clear and specific. As Billy Floyd Brock obviously had not ‘recovered his sanity’ when he was committed, section 6550.5 of the Welfare and Institutions Code as it now exists does not clear his appropriate relatives of the duty to support him.

I agree with that part of the opinion of Mr. Justice STONE which holds that hardship on a relative does not furnish ground to deny recovery by the State.

STONE, Justice.

BROWN, J., concurs.