Tuesday, August 21, 2012

April Jones Battles Huntington's and Indiana's Oppression

April Jones
                Earl Key, an Indiana systems programmer, has seen his children suffer from the same disease that afflicted his late wife: Huntington's.  Huntington's affects 250,000 Americans. It reduces mobility and muscular function.  At first, it causes twitching called chorea.  At a later stage those afflicted become unable to care for themselves.   Its most famous victim was Woody Guthrie, author of "This Land is Your Land."

            April Jones, Key's stepdaughter when she was growing up, reunited with him 12 years ago.  Although Key is not her legal guardian, he has provided her financial support and regularly drives 200 miles from Illinois to Indiana to visit her.  But he was not consulted when Jones was seized against her will in 2011. Taken away from her apartment in handcuffs, she was forced into a police car and taken to a hearing in the court of Judge G. Thomas Gray in Martinsville, Indiana, forced to reside in a hospital behavioral ward, and then confined to a nursing home--all against her will.   Lumar Griggs, whom, Jones told me, she hates, was appointed her guardian and given the authority to agree to forcible administration of Haldol, powerful psychotropic medication that Jones does not want to take.  

            Jeffrey Schaler, an American University public affairs professor who has written on the rights of the disabled and mentally ill, says that he gets so many letters from citizens who have been troubled by this issue that he "finds it overwhelming."  He says:  "Adult Protective Services (APS) and Social Services generally are horrible in the way they engage in taking people away from families.  It's frightening.  I just hear the stories and people asking for help."  

            David Smith is interim legal services director of Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services.  He says that in Indiana the guardianship process depends on a physician's report to the court that indicates incapacity and inability to make decisions.   Also, the court needs to determine who, in the ward's interest, should be appointed guardian.  In Jones's case, Judge Gray automatically assigned her guardianship to someone with whom he has a relationship:  Griggs.  In virtually all cases the guardian is given total authority over the person's decision making.  This is so even if the individual, like Jones, is competent.  Indiana's legal system gives Jones fewer rights than New York's mental patients.  In New York, unless they pose a danger, mental patients can refuse drugs.  In Indiana the government has assigned a guardian who dictates to Jones that she take powerful anti-psychotic medication--even though she is not psychotic--that she thinks is killing her.  


            In January 2011, Jones's landlord accused her of dropping cigarette ashes on her bed. It is unknown whether the landlord contacted APS.  APS's Cindy Jones filed an emergency petition with Morgan Superior Court in Martinsville.     

            Three years earlier, in 2008, Judge Gray had appointed the same guardian, Griggs, when Jones had been living in a Martinsville woman's shelter.  Subsequently, Jones moved to Illinois, and Indiana dismissed the guardianship after the Illinois courts made a determination that Jones did not need a guardian.  Jones then returned to Indiana to be closer to her family.

             According to Key, APS encouraged Jones's physician to write a report based on six-month-old information; the report recommended involuntary confinement.   Judge Gray did not allow Jones to speak at the emergency hearing; her next friend Key was not present.  The US Supreme Court has held that, in cases of involuntary treatment of a mental patient, there must be due process.  

            Jones told me that after forcing her to stay in the hospital, Griggs improperly changed the status on her forms to "voluntary."  Jones told me that she believes that the stress from these events has shortened her life. 

            Griggs, Judge Gray and Bloomington, Indiana APS have not responded to my requests for statements.

Key Petitions Federal Court

             Key petitioned the federal district court in 2011. Key's petition says that Jones has been "drugged into submission."  He accuses Griggs of manipulating the nursing home staff; although they stopped giving Jones Haldol in April, 2011, they resumed giving it to her in July 2011 because, Key alleges, Griggs encouraged it. 

            Although Jones did not fall prior to her forced residency in the Parkview nursing home, since being forced to take Haldol she has suffered many bruises and repeatedly has fallen on her head.  Key writes: "April walked into that nursing home fully cognitive, living a life not unlike anyone else's. The past 19 months have literally destroyed her."  Key sent me photos, submitted to federal court as part of his petition, of wounds and bruises that Jones has incurred under Griggs's guardianship.

             Key's petition also states that Jones so fears Griggs and the Parkview Nursing Home that she has expressed concern that they will isolate her in retaliation for the petition. 

            It also states that after issuing the decree to put Jones under Griggs's guardianship, Judge Gray stepped into the gallery and smilingly asked Griggs, “Are we keeping you filled up?”

            When I questioned Smith about the appeal process for guardianships, he told me that in Indiana appeals must be made to the same court that authorized the guardianship.  When I questioned whether there might be psychological bias on the part of a court that has already made a decision, he told me that Indiana does not recognize the possibility of bias on a court's part.

            While driving with Key, Jones said over the telephone that she did not want to stay at the Parkview Nursing Home.  She said that she dislikes Griggs, whom she called a mean, controlling person.  She began to cry when she said that she wanted to be with her "dad," Key.  
            On August 16, 2012 Key signed a Reply Brief for the US Court of Appeals in Muncie on Jones's behalf. He is now waiting for a reply from a three-judge panel as to the constitutionality of Jones's treatment at the hands of Adult Protective Services.  Key, who is not a lawyer and has been handling the case himself, has asked The Lincoln Eagle to make a public appeal for an attorney who can help him with the case, even if the attorney is not a member of the Indiana bar. 

Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D. is political editor of The Lincoln Eagle.  Since 2008, when he first blogged about this issue, he has received several requests for assistance from victims of Adult Protective Services actions around the country. 


Raquel Okyay said...

Big brother knows better than you! Just think for a moment how bad this gets under Obamacare. Our nation is filled with corruption like this. I don't know when it ends.

Anonymous said...

We have a similar situation happening within our family with the same judge and guardian. Where do we turn for help? The court system in Morgan county has been a waste of time and money