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State v. Zorn

Supreme Court of Vermont

August 9, 2013

State of Vermont
v.
Robert E. Zorn

Motion for Reargument Denied January 9, 2014

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On appeal from Superior Court, Rutland Unit, Criminal Division. Mary Miles Teachout, J.

Marc D. Brierre, Rutland County State's Attorney, Rutland, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Matthew F. Valerio, Defender General, Anna Saxman, Deputy Defender General, and Joshua S. O'Hara, Appellate Defender, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellant.

Present: Dooley, Burgess and Robinson, JJ., and Bent, Supr, J. and Johnson, J. (Ret.), Specially Assigned.

OPINION

Page 1165

Dooley, J.

[¶ 1] Defendant Robert E. Zorn appeals the superior court's order involuntarily hospitalizing him for a period of ninety days pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 4822.[1] Defendant first contends that the hospitalization order was improper because there was insufficient evidence to establish that he was a person in need of treatment as defined under 18 V.S.A. § 7101(17). Specifically, defendant argues that the trial court lacked substantial evidence of a causal connection between his delusional disorder and the risk of harm he posed to others. Second, defendant argues that Judge Teachout should have disqualified herself from the hospitalization hearing because her ruling swept her into the class of people she found to be in reasonable fear of harm as a result of defendant's mental illness. We affirm.

[¶ 2] On March 31, 2011, defendant was charged with one count of simple assault and one count of resisting arrest. The State alleged that on March 30, 2011, defendant went uninvited to attorney Herbert Ogden's office in Danbye. Attorney Ogden represents defendant's brothers in a contested estate matter against defendant. Defendant demanded that attorney Ogden pay defendant money that he alleged that attorney Ogden owed him. Not obtaining immediate satisfaction, defendant punched attorney Ogden in the jaw and attempted to hold his arms behind his back and place him under arrest. After repeatedly being told to leave by attorney Ogden, defendant ultimately left the office.

[¶ 3] After defendant left, attorney Ogden complained to the police, and two Vermont State Police Troopers responded and obtained a sworn written statement from him. Based on the statement, the troopers located defendant and stopped him while he was driving his car. Defendant

Page 1166

immediately stepped out of his vehicle and proceeded to walk in the direction of the police vehicle. After disregarding the troopers' multiple commands to return to his vehicle or get on his knees, defendant stated that he could not get on his knees and sat on his rear. The troopers then commanded that defendant lie down on his stomach and put his hands out on his side, and defendant once again failed to comply with their directions. Consequently, one of the troopers deployed his taser. The trooper was then able to secure defendant's hands and take him into custody.

[¶ 4] The troopers found two rifles with clips and ammunition in defendant's vehicle. After the traffic stop, defendant advised that he was having neck and knee pains from a preexisting injury. An ambulance was contacted, and defendant was transported to the Rutland Regional Medical Center. Defendant was subsequently evaluated at the hospital and released into State Police custody.

[¶ 5] The next day, March 31, 2011, defendant was arraigned before a superior judge on one count of simple assault and resisting arrest. During the arraignment, a social worker who had screened defendant that day testified that, in her opinion, defendant was a person in need of treatment and recommended that he have an inpatient evaluation at the Vermont State Hospital. At the conclusion of the arraignment, the judge ordered, pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 4815(g), an inpatient competency evaluation of defendant.

[¶ 6] Dr. Paul Cotton, a forensic psychiatrist, examined defendant at the Vermont State Hospital on April 6, 2011, and determined that he was incompetent to stand trial and insane at the time of the offense. The doctor put his findings into a formal report that day. At a bail review hearing on April 15, 2011, the court, ...


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