Justices deny appeal from man in state mental facility

Steve Korris Dec. 21, 2008, 2:22pm

Justice Charles Kreger

BEAUMONT – Twenty years after a jury sent Andrew Sawyer Weller to a mental hospital instead of prison for killing his parents, Weller has lost a bid for freedom.

The Ninth District appeals court in Beaumont on Dec. 11 affirmed a Jefferson County jury verdict extending Weller's involuntary mental health commitment.

Justice Charles Kreger found "clear and convincing evidence in the record from which the jury reasonably could have formed a firm conviction that Weller continues to meet the inpatient criteria for involuntary commitment."

Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justice David Gaultney agreed.

Prior to Weller's commitment trial, state psychiatrists obtained a court order authorizing them to administer psychotropic drugs against his will.

"A patient's refusal to take medication is evidence that, as a whole, tends to confirm the likelihood of serious harm to the patient and others," Kreger wrote.

Weller killed his parents with a shotgun in 1986. He was found insance by jurors in 1988.

Since then the state has kept him in hospitals at Vernon, Kerrville and Rusk.

To continue holding him at Rusk, the state applied to Criminal District Court Judge John Stevens for renewal of a commitment order. Stevens brought the case to a jury.

Psychiatrist Edward Gripon, the state's only witness, testified that Weller suffered from a delusional disorder.

Gripon had first examined Weller before he killed his parents. He had examined Weller about 15 times since then, but prior to trial Weller refused to see him.

The doctor testified that Weller continued to show no remorse for slaying his parents, exhibited features of paranoid psychosis and that Weller's condition implied the potential for danger.

He quoted another doctor who found Weller "suspicious, guarded, hypervigilant and having a tendency to avoid discussing details of the slaying."

He said that not enough time had passed to form an opinion about any benefit Weller might have received from involuntary medication.
Jurors found Weller mentally ill and likely to cause serious harm to himself and others.

They found that without treatment, he would suffer severe and abnormal distress and his ability to function independently would deteriorate.

They found that he couldn't make a rational choice about submitting to treatment.

Attorney Steve Johnson appealed to the Ninth District for Weller, claiming the evidence was legally and factually insufficient.

The Ninth District disagreed.

Kreger wrote, "We find the evidence factually sufficient because our review of the entire record does not convince us that the contrary evidence is so significant that the jury could not reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction to the truth of its finding."

Bruce Smith and Rodney Conerly represented the state.

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