I was in a mental illness court where I had been appointed as attorney to represent several people facing commitment to a mental institute. I had the name of the proposed patients written on a piece of paper and I had already interviewed them. There were five or six, and all, except one, were going to accept the doctors' recommendations and not contest the commitment.
The doctor who would be testifying at the hearings walked in and he reminded me of Doctor Glotfelty (doctor at Dallas Mental Illness Court). We began talking and I laid my paper with the names of the proposed patients on the table in front of me. I told the doctor I wasn't going to contest any of the cases except one and that the proposed patients would whatever recommendation he might make in their cases.
We began talking about the case which I was contesting. At first I thought it was a black fellow named Alvin, and the doctor said he could be released. But then I realized the contesting patient was actually named something like "Steven Crane" or "Steven Crank." I pointed his name out to the doctor and the doctor seemed unsure he would be able to recommend his release. But he at least seemed willing to consider the possibility of release and we began talking about the fellow.
The judge entered the room and was obviously impatient to begin the hearing. The audience section of the room had filled with perhaps 50 people.
Steven (probably 19-20 years old) was led in. He had short black hair and seemed physically fit. He seemed nervous, and as he sat in his seat, I put my right hand on his shoulder to try to relax him.
I hadn't prepared any questions to ask him, but I knew I would just be able to question him in a general way and that it would quickly become obvious to all concerned whether he was suffering from a mental illness. First thing I wanted to do was find out whether he was oriented as to time and place and I asked him if he knew where he was. He did. He seemed fairly coherent and I continued asking questions.
He was becoming more and more nervous, his legs were moving back and forth and he couldn't seem to keep his hands still. He was expressing a lot of fear, especially at the thought of returning home. Apparently he was afraid of his sister, who was named Louise, and who lived at home.
Suddenly someone in the back row of the audience called out and stood up. It was a black woman (perhaps 40 years old). She identified herself as Steven's sister Louise. It surprised me that his sister was black. She talked for a short while, and I quickly concluded that she didn't have a friendly disposition toward Steven and that he might have some good reason for being afraid of her.
The judge (perhaps 40 years old) was growing impatient and wanted to move on. He looked like a strong man, even muscular. He had black hair. I would have liked to probe further into the matter of the sister and would even have liked to ask her a few questions. I mentioned how she did "not seem to be all that friendly" and then I said something to the judge about how he shouldn't just cut off my questioning like that. I immediately realized I might have offended the judge and he did look a bit piqued, but he didn't say anything.
I continued questioning Steven, but he was becoming more and more nervous and it was painfully clear that he was unable to respond well to my questions. Finally I saw no point in continuing and I allowed the doctor to begin asking questions. The doctor now seemed to be a different man. He was perhaps 40 years old and, like the judge, appeared strong and vigorous. He only asked one or two questions and then concluded. I was also finished and I told the judge that I rested my case.
The doctor then turned to the audience and asked them if they were going to "do it to him." I suddenly realized part of the audience was a jury. A number of people answered affirmatively to the doctor's questions and apparently they were voting to have Steven committed. About 12 people in the audience stood up. I noticed one was a black woman. Apparently the vote was unanimous and Steven would be committed for a period of time not to exceed 90 days.
The jury started to march out and Steven also stood to leave. There was a brief moment when no one is holding him, and he quickly slipped over to the side of the room where the windows were. I saw him and I could have hollered, but I just watched, mute. In a flash he slipped through an open window. Some people were standing right next to him, and I could have probably hollered out to them. But I stood motionless.
It suddenly occurred to me that we were on the fourth floor. Almost immediately I heard Steven scream and it was clear he was falling the four floors to the ground. I waited for the thud of his impact on the ground, but I didn't hear it. Instead I just heard another piercing, agonized scream. He continued to moan and it sounded as if he must have survived the fall, but was critically injured.
I felt like saying something to the doctor and the judge about how they had driven him to do this thing, but I realized it wouldn't do any good to criticize them. Besides, apparently Steven was quite mentally ill and it might have turned out just as bad if he had been released.
I hastened to one of the windows, pushed it open and stuck my head out. I could see Steven lying on the ground below. People had already reached him and were caring for him. He had already been completely wrapped up in white gauze bandages and a tall, muscular man was standing over him. Two of the bandages crossed Steven's chest like a cross. The man put his fingers under those bandages and picked Steven up. The man seemed to know what he was doing and that was apparently the safest way to pick someone up like that when there was danger of a back injury.
I turned away and tried to be nonchalant. I had a piece of gum in my mouth which I wanted to get rid of.
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