We have previously reported about the case of Frank Harris, Jr., an individual who was institutionalized at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital because he was found not guilty of a minor property crime, by reason of insanity. Although it might seem harsh that an individual could be placed in a mental institution for over thirty years over a minor property crime, the law does permit an individual to be retained in the care, custody, control of the District of Columbia if they are found guilty by reason of insanity unless and until the judge finds that they have been “cured”. Mr. Harris had been complaining that bad demons were “invading” through his eyes and that he needed to tear his eyes out. Numerous medical records reported the necessity of protecting Mr. Harris from tearing his eyes out. Despite the fact that the records stated that Mr. Harris needed that protection, the District of Columbia assigned an individual to Mr. Harris who was not adequately familiar with Mr. Harris’ condition. He released Mr. Harris without adequate protection, e.g. hand mitts, and Mr. Harris immediately tore both of his eyes out.
Shortly after filing the lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Harris, the District of Columbia sent the guardian representing Mr. Harris a bill for over $2.2 million for the “care” provided to him during his institutionalization. There was a public outcry against the District of Columbia for attempting to recover the cost of “caring” for Mr. Harris from monies it would pay to compensate Mr. Harris for negligently permitting him to tear his eyes out. Initially it was only the Washington Post that wrote an editorial ” Blind Injustice ” which aligned itself with the viewpoint of Ira Sherman, Esq. and Joseph Cammarata, Esq., the partners at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. that were representing Mr. Harris. Within a matter of weeks, City Councilmember At-Large, Phillip Mendelson and City Council Chairman Vincent Gray agreed with Messrs. Sherman and Cammarata and wrote Mayor Fenty a letter requesting that he withdraw the bill sent to the guardian because it was unfair and inappropriate. The Mayor seemed unaffected by the public outcry and the outcry within the city council. Council members Mendelson and Gray successfully lobbied other members of the District of Columbia city council to support the introduction of legislation to cure the unfair actions of the Mayor and his staff of lawyers. Eleven of thirteen council members co-authored and introduced the “Frank Harris, Jr. Offset Justice Amendment Act of 2007”.
In summary, the bill, a copy of which is appended to this blog, would prohibit the District of Columbia from seeking recovery of money expended to care for Mr. Harris from the proceeds of monies provided to Mr. Harris resulting from the negligence of his care. We are proud of the success of this collective effort.