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State of Ohio v. Danny J. Lantz

October 21, 2011


Criminal Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2009 CR 0498.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas R. Wright, J.

Cite as State v. Lantz,


Judgment: Reversed and remanded.

{¶1} This appeal is from a final judgment of the Portage County Court of Common Pleas. Appellant, Danny J. Lantz, contests the trial court's decision to allow his treating physician to administer antipsychotic medication as part of his basic treatment in a mental health facility. Essentially, he maintains that the testimony of the treating physician was not sufficient to satisfy the standard for requiring him to take the new medication against his will.

{¶2} In August 2009, the Portage County Grand Jury indicted appellant on two counts of felonious assault, second-degree felonies under R.C. 2903.11(A)(2). Almost immediately after appellant's arraignment, his counsel moved the trial court to order an evaluation of his sanity at the time the two offenses allegedly took place. Following the completion of the first psychological evaluation, the trial court conducted a hearing and found that appellant was competent to stand trial. Nevertheless, the court still ordered that a second evaluation be performed. Furthermore, appellant's counsel filed a written plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

{¶3} Prior to the scheduled date for his trial in late December 2009, appellant executed a written waiver of his constitutional right to a jury trial. At the beginning of the ensuing bench trial, the state and appellant submitted into evidence certain stipulations of fact and a copy of a psychological report. Upon approving the stipulations and fully reviewing the report, the trial court found appellant not guilty by reason of insanity as to both counts of the indictment.

{¶4} The trial court then proceeded to hold a hearing, under R.C. 2945.40, to determine whether appellant should be subject to hospitalization or institutionalization. After further consideration of the psychological report, the court found "to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty" that appellant had a severe mental disease. Accordingly, the trial court ordered that appellant would be hospitalized in the Heartland Behavioral Healthcare Center for the maximum sentence allowable or until his sanity is restored.

{¶5} During the initial eight months of appellant's hospitalization, the trial court reviewed his status on two occasions. Following the first status hearing, the trial court found that appellant's continuing commitment was still necessary, and that his disease should be treated as recommended by the mental health facility. After the second such hearing, the court ordered that appellant was entitled to a higher degree of privileges at the facility.

{¶6} Approximately 50 days after appellant had been granted more privileges, the mental health facility, i.e., Heartland Behavioral Healthcare Center, moved the trial court to approve a new course of treatment for appellant. Specifically, the facility sought to administer antipsychotic medication to treat appellant's schizoaffective disorder. The motion stated that the new medication had been recommended by Dr. Vinod Sharma, appellant's treating physician, and that appellant was unable to give an intelligent and knowing consent to the proposed treatment.

{¶7} The trial court held an abbreviated hearing on the motion, during which Dr. Sharma was the sole witness. As part of his testimony, the doctor indicated that, even though appellant was presently taking one antipsychotic medication, it was not sufficient to fully stabilize his condition. According to the doctor, appellant still tended to exhibit paranoid ideas, religious preoccupation, anger, and irritability; thus, additional treatment was necessary to improve his insight and judgment. Besides the antipsychotic drugs, Dr. Sharma testified that appellant needed other new medication to stabilize his moods.

{¶8} In its final judgment of November 23, 2010, the trial court basically granted the facility's motion for approval of the new course of treatment. As the grounds for its determination, the trial court stated:

{¶9} "The court, upon hearing the testimony of Vinod Sharma, M.D., finds that the course of treatment in administering the anti-psychotic medications and mood stabilizing drugs is appropriate to treat the defendant to help to restore him to sanity.

The court would find that it specifically is appropriate to give the defendant mood stabilizing medications and at the present time anti-psychotic ...

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