Tuesday, February 25, 2014

People v. Rosalinda C. (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 24, 2014)

I'm fairly confident that Rosalinda C. is indeed still mentally disabled.  She's been committed to California Psychiatric Transition for the past five years, and seems to continue to have schizophrenia.

But isn't it interesting how one tends to interpret behavior depending upon what one expects.

For example, as part of establishing how Rosalinda is still mentally disabled, the Court of Appeal notes that "Rosalinda had recently begun to exhibit other symptoms indicating poor impulse control, such as urinating on herself on purpose in order to achieve other ends, like avoiding group therapy, and ensuring she was the last in line for medication or meals."  I don't know.  Honestly, that sounds like a pretty good strategy to me.  If I was institutionalized and wanted to get out of mandatory group therapy, peeing on myself would probably do the trick pretty darn well.

Or take the next sentence:  "Rosalinda was digging in the trash to look for food, and she sometimes ate out of the trash."  Sounds pretty crazy, right?  Until you realize that when she was committed, Rosalinda tipped the scales at 300 pounds.  At which point she was promptly (and understandably) put "on a restricted-calorie diet and has lost significant weight."  Maybe she's eating stuff in the trash can because she's really hungry and they won't give her the food she wants.

Which the Court of Appeal (and the medical staff) notes is a possibility.  But discounts because "Dr. Turpin
had tried other ways to help hungry patients, such as encouraging them to drink water, or giving them extra portions of vegetables."  Oh, yeah.  Because I know from personal experience that all I have to do to get my kids to stop complaining about how "starving" they are is to pour them another glass of water and dump a pile of institutionally prepared vegetables on their plate.  Works every time.

As I said, it may well be that Rosalinda has some serious problems.  But we should nonetheless be careful that we're not interpreting the things we see merely in the way we expect to see them.