No. 21870 -- Larry L. v. State of West Virginia
Neely, J., dissenting:
The majority opinion in this case is the supreme
exaltation of form over substance. The entire record in this case
as recited by the majority cries out for the conclusion that no
less restrictive alternative than the Elkins Children's Home was
available for Larry.
Furthermore, as the majority so succinctly explains, the
Elkins Children's Home is a non-secure facility with numerous
diagnostic and supportive services available. Sending Larry to the
Elkins Children's Home involves a very substantial investment of
State money to help Larry, who is in sore need of serious help.
Larry's parents can't cope with him; the Matoaka Junior High School
can't cope with him; the Princeton Junior High School can't cope
with him; and, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey apparently can't cope with him.
What less restrictive alternative does the majority have in mind?
Even a blind hog gets an acorn from time to time, so
there are, indeed, some notable mental health success stories.
Whether the patients would have done as well to have spent the same
amount of time with their local bartender is, of course,
problematic; nonetheless, bartenders aren't qualified for either
State money or Medicaid funds, which makes them undependable
community mental health resources for those too impecunious to buy
their own drinks or too young to go to bars.
With all that in mind, I suppose that down in Princeton
we could have referred Larry to the ministrations of one of the
better off-duty bartenders, or we could have let him act out for
another two years in the public schools where a little maturity
might (but only might) have cured him in the natural course of
On the other hand, the difference between a status
offender like Larry and a criminal offender who commits armed
robberies or gets himself killed dealing drugs is about two weeks
on the street. The Elkins Children's Home, while perhaps not
ideal, is way ahead of whatever is in second place for Larry.
For all these reasons I dissent.