RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: New Jersey General Assembly
DOCKET NO.: 81-5195
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: District of Columbia Court of Appeals
CITATION: 463 US 354 (1983)
ARGUED: Nov 02, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1983
Joshua I. Schwartz - on behalf of Respondent
Silas W. Wasserstrom - on behalf of Petitioner
Silas J. Wasserstrom - on behalf of petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for Jones v. United StatesAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 02, 1982 in Jones v. United States
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 29, 1983 in Jones v. United States
Warren E. Burger:
The judgments and opinion of the Court in Jones against the United States will be announced by Justice Powell.
Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:
This case is here form the District of Colombia Court of Appeals.
In the District, a criminal defendant is acquitted if he can establish an insanity defense by preponderance of evidence.
He is then committed to a mental hospital.
In 1975, petitioner Jones was arrested on charges of attempted larceny, a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment.
He successfully pleaded insanity and was committed to a mental hospital.
After Jones had been hospitalized for longer than a year, he demanded a civil commitment hearing at which it would be the Government's burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he was mentally ill and dangerous.
The Court of Appeals rejected that argument.
A judgment of not guilty by a reason of insanity establishes two facts, first, that the defendant committed a criminal act and second, that he did so because of mental illness.
We hold that these findings sufficiently demonstrate mental illness and dangerousness.
This is necessary.
The involuntary commitment is necessary, both for the treatment of the defendant and for protection of society.
Clear and convincing evidence is required to support a civil commitment but where a defendant elects to plead insanity, a judgment on such plead is lawful when supported by a preponderance of the evidence.
Petitioner argues also that he may not be confined to an institution for a longer period of time than he would have served in prison, but a sentence of incarceration is based on a variety of punitive factors not relevant to a hospital commitment.
Moreover, the statute provides several ways and an insanity acquittee may obtain release including the right to a judicial hearing every six months.
Jones has not yet been able to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that he has recovered from his illness.
We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Marshall and Blackmun.
Justice Stevens also has filed a dissenting opinion.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you, Justice Powell.