"If my experience is any guide, the Tulsa Public Defender’s Office, from the very first meeting with a client, inexcusably fails in its moral, legal, professional and ethical obligations to adequately defend people with mental illnesses. In the first meeting before appearing in Mental Health Court, the Oklahoma Mental Health Code requires the defendant’s attorney to present to the client “a statement of the person’s rights, including all rights afforded to the person by the Oklahoma and United States Constitutions.” I never saw one. Even though a client can be permanently stripped of civil rights in the current practice of Mental Health Court, the Public Defender’s office does not bother to explain the practical legal consequences of such things as not getting a trial by jury and commitment to a mental facility. One might think there is a tacit agreement among those “professionals” concerned that they should not waste too much time or resources on defending or assuring the rights of people with mental illnesses.
Here is a partial list of the things to which the Public Defender’s Office does not bother to object in Mental Health Court:
the prejudiced failure of the Tulsa Police to investigate a complaint fully and impartially, or to take statements from witnesses other than the defendant’s accusers;
the lack of sworn statements or complaints from anyone outside of the mental health system;
the use of hearsay evidence as proven fact;
the unconstitutional lowering of the standard of evidence from “clear and convincing” to “a preponderance”;
the failure of the Mental Health Court Judge to appoint a mental health examining commission that is independent of the facility that will benefit by the commitment;
the false assertion that the only mental health information available comes from the mental health facility that will benefit from the commitment;
the dependence of the Mental Health Court Judge solely upon the mental health evaluations of the facility that will benefit from the commitment;
the artificial exaggeration of those evaluations by the facility to achieve a commitment;
the conflict of interest in allowing the facility psychiatrist who will treat the defendant serve as a “witness”, an “evaluator” and the petitioner for commitment;
the limitation of sworn “witnesses” solely to employees of the mental health facility and those who provide it with candidates for commitment;
a situation in which delivery to the facility causes the defendant extreme stress and upset, which cannot be separated from any condition prior to arrest, and is then used to justify commitment;
the proven propensity of innocent people to falsely incriminate themselves in such situations;
the fact proven by long-standing medical and legal research that the mental health facility cannot accurately predict the defendant’s alleged “dangerousness” better than about one time out of three, leaving the other two falsely incarcerated;
the refusal of the mental health facility or Mental Health Court Judge to obtain long-standing outside medical and psychiatric information and treatment records in consideration of the least intrusive alternative treatment;
and the refusal of the facility to release an inmate, including one who objects to commitment based on hearsay, on the basis that the inmate cannot prove the negative, that he or she is not a “danger” to anyone – in other words, incarceration based upon uncertainty rather than provable fact.
These are not tough concepts of injustice for the layman to grasp, much less honest, conscientious and experienced lawyers. One need only ask if this is the standard of evidence and justice one would want for one’s self. Unfortunately, outside of some public scandal, the public defenders, the mental facility “professionals” and the Mental Health Court Judge, have little if any incentive to reform. People with mental illnesses are unpopular, demonized in entertainment and the press. The penalties in State law for anything short of beating and raping a mental health inmate are almost non-existent. And even though Federal law and the Constitution have protections against such treatment, it seems the local Federal Court and Justice Department will not support due process for someone with a mental illness. Small wonder that few people with serious difficulties will “get help” voluntarily. Too often, it’s just a license for more of the kind of abuse that caused or aggravated the original condition. "