Thursday, February 21, 2013

Letter to the Editor: Review Civil Commitment Laws In the Wake of Sandy Hook Tragedy

Letters to the Editor are published as a courtesy and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Insider staff.
Letter to the Editor:

The dialogue in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings has focused on regulating guns. There are other issues associated with Sandy Hook that have received no attention, but are equally important. There is no dialogue regarding the fact that had the shooter, Adam Lanza, lived he would not have faced the death penalty for killing twenty children and six adults because Connecticut repealed its death penalty last year. It could be argued that Lanza was mentally unstable, but there is no discussion about the impact of changes in the laws with respect to civil commitments. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1979 decision in Addington v. Texas raised the bar for civil commitments from a fair preponderance of the evidence to a clear and convincing standard thereby making it extremely difficult to commit mentally unstable persons. In fact, the homeless epidemic of the 1980’s coincided with the ruling in Addington. It is not unfair to wonder whether Addington set the bar for civil commitments too high. James Holmes, who killed twelve people in Colorado, was also mentally disturbed. Yet, dialogue on dealing with people who are dangerously mentally ill seems to be off the table just as much as the death penalty.

Wyatt Kopp, CT Resident

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