Why was Gus Deeds released by the mental health facility?

November 21, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Good morning:

Why was Gus Deeds released by the mental health facility?

Austin “Gus” Deeds, 24, was released from a mental health facility on Monday after undergoing a mental health evaluation to determine if he were a danger to himself or to others. The evaluation occurred at the end of a prior emergency commitment.

He assaulted his father, Virginia State Senator R. Creigh Deeds, with a knife on Tuesday morning stabbing him in the head and upper torso multiple times.

Gus committed suicide by shooting himself with a rifle.

His father was airlifted to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville where he is now listed in good condition.

The Washington Post is reporting today that,

officials initially said the reason he was not admitted to a hospital was that no bed was available. But multiple nearby hospitals later confirmed that they had available space but were never contacted.

The implication in this statement is that a mental health professional determined that he was a danger to himself or to others and would have been committed but for the lack of a bed.

Three issues are raised by this statement:

(1) whether a mental health professional (i.e., psychiatrist) evaluated Gus Deeds and concluded that he was a danger to himself or to others (the implication is that this happened); and would have involuntarily committed him to a secure mental health treatment facility, but for the lack of an available bed; and

(2) whether Gus Deeds was released without checking with other mental health facilities to determine if they had an available bed, which would be patient abandonment; and

(3) whether Gus’s father was warned that Gus was dangerous and if not, why not?

I have previously written about a mental health professional’s duty to warn others in Is the University of Colorado Potentially Liable to Holmes’s Victims? I said,

In Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 551 P.2d 334 (1976), the California Supreme Court created a new cause of action in tort for the negligent failure of a mental health professional to notify the police and potential victim regarding a threat to harm or kill communicated by a patient to the mental health professional. Before Tarasoff, mental health professionals were prohibited by the therapist/patient privilege of confidentiality from disclosing threats to harm or kill others uttered by patients during treatment.

The unique facts and equities of Tarasoffcompelled a majority of the California Supreme Court to ignore legal precedent and create a new cause of action against mental health professionals founded in negligence to compensate victims of violence committed by a patient under the care and treatment of a mental health professional who failed to warn the police and the victim of a threat to harm the victim uttered by the patient.

See also: Holmes: Does the Colorado Statute Bar Recovery?. Note that Virginia will have its own statute that may vary from the Colorado statute.

Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) has ordered the Virginia Inspector General to find out why Gus Deeds was released.

“We’re going to investigate the circumstances that led up to Austin Deeds’s release at the expiration of the emergency custody order,” said G. Douglas Bevelacqua of the Office of the Inspector General.

Finally, please read this comment by Gytannia, a reader who commented regarding the Washington Post article:

Speaking from experience when someone who is mental “flips out”. It can happen very fast from calm to extremely dangerous. Like a light switch. The son could very well have been seemingly calm and cooperative all day Monday. This tends to convince the family that maybe they don’t need to be hospitalized. Especially a politician wouldn’t want public to know, so would put it off possibly. Then, when something in a conversation flips that switch or even if he sees something online, it’s game over for self control or decent behavior. While attacking, who or whatever is closest, it’s like watching a movie that you can’t stop, even if part of your brain is screaming to stop. Often the shame afterwards of acting like that and causing harm or fear to your loved ones is too much to take. Every time it happens, it takes another piece of your self worth, of self confidence, and soon you think you don’t “belong” among the “normal”. anymore. And you don’t want to harm your loved one..again. At the time, your brain refuses to think consequences or any rational thought, and there seems to be no solution short of drugs to make you drool into oblivion. Hence the suicide following the outburst. It seems that suicide is always the first thought after a big mental outburst of violence on a loved one.

We will have to wait and see the result of the Inspector General’s investigation, but right now the assault and suicide appear to have been preventable, but for the negligence of the mental health facility that released Gus Deeds.


I Worry About Mark O’Mara and George Zimmerman

July 20, 2012

O’Mara -“The client always calls the shots,” his lawyer, Mark O’Mara said Thursday.

One of the most contentious issues in the field of criminal defense is how to handle the difficult client.

Many lawyers are like Mark O’Mara and devote their efforts to assisting their clients to make informed decisions. I have seen some lawyers, for example, ask a jury to sentence their client to death because that is the outcome the client desired.

I have seen too many people change their minds after being sentenced to death, so I decided long ago to refuse to facilitate a client’s desire to commit suicide.

For some reason, I have had more than my share of difficult clients where we disagreed on strategy and desired outcomes. I refused to allow the client to drive the bus over a cliff and, if it came down to irreconcilable differences, I moved to withdraw.

GZ is the quintessential difficult client. He is paranoid, secretive, fearful, angry, stubborn, doesn’t trust anyone, controlling, believes he’s smarter than anyone else, manipulative, and probably delusional. It’s absolutely clear that he does not feel any emotional distress or regret for having killed TM.

His claim that TM died as part of “God’s Plan” exhibits a frightening dissociation from reality and a willingness to kill without any sense of responsibility or regret, if he deems it necessary to do so. In other words, if he should find himself in another situation where he believes he is cornered and needs to kill someone to save face or save his ass, I believe he’s likely to do so and excuse what he did as just carrying out God’s will.

I think he is a danger to himself or others and he belongs in a secure mental health facility or a jail. He needs a thorough mental health evaluation.

I fear that Mark O’Mara is a potential victim and I am concerned about his safety. He’s clearly lost control of GZ despite his protestations to the contrary. GZ clearly sees O’Mara in the way and O’Mara has to be very careful how he handles the “uncharted waters” (his words) in which he finds himself.

If he pushes too hard in an effort to regain control, assuming he ever had control, things could get ugly.

I think he needs to withdraw because there is basically nothing he can do at this point without potentially placing himself in danger. GZ is not going to listen to him anyway, so he might as well get out of the case. He needs to recognize that his dreams of fame and fortune have turned to dust. There is not going to be any money for him and he needs to get out while the gettin’ is good.

Now, back to the question of who should call the shots.

I firmly believe the lawyer has to call the shots with input from the client, obviously. According to the rules of professional conduct, the client only gets to decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty and whether to testify or not testify. The rules provide that the lawyer has the responsibility and the duty to make the other decisions using independent professional judgment in the best interests of the client.

In my professional opinion, O’Mara is abdicating that responsibility when he says the “client calls the shots.” Having said that, I do not believe that he would have succeeded in getting control of GZ, if he had attempted to do so. He certainly cannot do it now.

Regardless whether a person believes GZ is guilty of murder in the second degree or not guilty by reason of self-defense, I believe everyone needs to realize that GZ is a volcano waiting to explode, despite no trial date having been set. The pressure, anxiety and fear will only increase geometrically as the case gets closer to trial.

Ask yourself if you would show up without your lawyer dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans to meet Barbara Walters and her film crew to do an interview for her show, The View, and at the last possible moment try to change the deal to get ABC to pay for a month’s lodging in a hotel with a security detail.

Think about that. Who does something like that?

Consider also that he reactivated his website (therealgeorgezimmerman.com) Thursday after his disastrous interview with softball pitcher Sean Hannity on Wednesday night , after basically complaining that the website that O’Mara established for him was,

(1) failing to correct distortions and falsehoods published by the media (even though his games to hide the internet donations and his contradictory and false statements have been the source of most of what has been reported);

(2) failing to get his message across; and

(3) failing to raise enough money to fund his lifestyle, security detail and pay his lawyer’s fees.

This is crazy behavior that does not bode well for the future.

I believe he is going to crack before too long as he realizes that his support is evaporating and he sees the bills rising and the walls closing in. I believe he may take his own life, commit suicide by cop, or he may take the life of another who pushes his button.


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