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November 2, 1984


Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County, Hon. Melvin J. Peterson, Judge, Reversed and remanded.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yetka

A person with a mental illness, incapacitated with respect to choosing a spouse, may have a conservator appointed for the limited purpose of approving or disapproving of the marriage.

YETKA, Justice.

June Mikulanec, committed as mentally ill and dangerous after being found not guilty by reason of insanity of the brutal slaying of the wife of a man she delusionally thought was in love with her, now wishes to marry Herbert Ward, an anti-social personality and pedophile committed for his history of violently and sexually exploiting vulnerable women and children. Dr. Brian M. Gottlieb, the Medical Director at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter where both Mikulanec and Ward are committed and Mikulanec's treating psychiatrist, petitioned for the appointment of a guardian for Mikulanec. The Hennepin County Probate Court denied the petition. Gottlieb appealed to this court and moved for an injunction preventing the marriage pending this appeal. The injunction was granted. We reverse the Hennepin County Probate Court and remand for the appointment of a conservator for Mikulanec.

On October 3, 1977, June Mikulanec stabbed Susan Rosenthal 97 times in a fit of jealousy. Mikulanec had known Al Rosenthal before he married Susan and had built a delusional world revolving around him. She believed he was in love with her. Her delusions reached to extent of preparing elaborate dinners, setting a luxurious table, waiting for Rosenthal to appear, and, when he did not, making excuses for his failure to come. When Rosenthal married, Mikulanec blamed Susan for coming between her and Rosenthal. In a violent expression of pent-up rage and anger, Mikulanec went to the Rosenthal house and brutally murdered Susan.

At the murder trial, the jury found Mikulanec had committed the murder, but was not guilty by reason of mental illness. She was committed on November 30, 1978. On September 20, 1982, after it became a co-educational facility, she was transferred to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. It was there that she met Ward.

Herbert Ward was committed 8 years ago to the Security Hospital as a sexual offender. He has a history of illegal and inappropriate behavior, ranging from rape to child abuse. Typically, he preys on vulnerable women and children with sincere words and superficial tenderness and then physically and sexually abuses them. He had tried to convince at least one other vulnerable female patient to marry him in the year that the institution has been co-educational.

The trial court found that the petitioners for the guardianship had not met their burden to show with clear and convincing evidence that a guardianship was needed:

"he ward is oriented as to time and place, exercises reasonable control over her general affairs, including money and other property, and in other areas of personal management she acts reasonably. The various tests indicate that she has a reasonable degree of intelligence, is aware of her surroundings, that she is active in programs and activities in the hospital, exercises a degree of leadership and, in general, appears competent. Her problem is of a limited scope in that she suffers from a mental disorder that causes her to react in stressful situations as described in the original Order of Commitment.

In the original Order of Commitment, Judge Peterson described Mikulanec's disorder with greater detail and more concern:

he is delusional, distorts reality by misinterpretation and makes false assumptions contrary to fact; that she attempts to repress and suppress from her conscious awareness that she may be angry, explosive, manipulative, and a pathalogical liar, setting herself up as not being responsible for her own actions, claiming others are responsible and that she is the innocent victim rather than the aggressor; that she sets up pathalogical defenses, including massive denial, amnesia, projection, rationalization, repression, projective identification, primitive idealization, and the omnipotence which are being used to protect the psychological image of herself as being a perfect "Virgin Mary" type person; that when others do not respond as she wishes, she is likely to become enraged and lash out in an outburst of anger, during which time she may become engaged in violent behavior towards others. * * * There is substantial evidence of a great emotional instability, unpredictability and lack of impulse control with explosive behavior that renders her dangerous.

Just over a year after Mikulanec's commitment, on December 31, 1979, a Department of Public Welfare Special Review Board examined her case. Discussing her progress in relation to a fact situation similar to that with Rosenthal, the board found that:

The testimony was conclusive that assuming the same fact situation were to arise that Ms. Mikulanec has not received sufficient treatment so as to handle the same fact situation without acting out in a hostile and aggressive manner. Although the resident's behavior has been that of a model patient, it appears her behavior was exemplary before the killing which precipitated this commitment. Inasmuch as the killing was itself very bizarre, and resulted in the infliction of some ninety stab wounds in the decedent, that the risks involved are extraordinary and should be treated accordingly. There has been no insight therapy and very little progress shown since the date of admission. This does not ...

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