Yesterday, I chided a professor who used the "between a rock and a hard place" phrase for creating a false dichotomy. But that difficult either/or choice does actually present itself from time to time, for example in the case of Derrick Dausman:
A mentally disabled man facing child molestation charges has been released from an Indiana state hospital to a group home even though the state says he is too dangerous to live free in the community.
Derrick Dausman's attorney says his client may never be mentally competent to stand trial and has filed a motion to dismiss the charges. Todd Whitehurst will argue Dausman's case on Jan. 24 in Wabash Circuit Court in northern Indiana.
"We don't think he is someone who should be out in the general public," Family and Social Services Administration spokesman Marcus Barlow said Monday. "We can't divorce the situation from the public safety risks."
Dausman, of Kosciusko County, was charged in December 2006 after authorities say he had a 13-year-old boy perform oral sex on him. His age was not available. According to court records, Dausman has an IQ in the low to mid-50s and is regarded as mildly mentally disabled.
Dausman doesn't have something he can grow out of -- he was born the way he is -- so the truth is that he will never be competent to stand trial. Can we just lock somebody away forever who hasn't had the full benefit our criminal justice system offers? But the same lack of competence that makes a trial impossible also makes him unable to comprehend that what he did was wrong, so he's likely to do it again -- a group home wouldn't provide adequate safeguards.
If the case is made on the danger Dausman poses, I don't think we have any choice but to go for the Richmond hospital option and make him as comfortable as possible there. That doesn't make it a good choice, just the best one available.