Remember when you were a kid, playing to your heart’s content outside, and were reprimanded by your parents for your reluctance to come back in the house?
24-year-old schizophrenic Cody Lee Miller has just encountered the adult version of that very same exchange, yet at a much higher price – a $50,000 bond, to be exact.
On March 22, Miller scaled a 90-foot sequoia tree in downtown Seattle, remaining there for the next 24 hours, despite police’s orders that he come down. Miller supposedly threw apples and branches at officers below, refusing their attempts to coerce him down.
Law enforcement claims that $8,000 in damages resulted from the exchange, though they failed to specify if Miller inflicted the damage himself or was it from the police in their attempts to remove Miller from the tree. It took more than 70 negotiators, police officers, and crisis response team members, as well as four fire engines leased from different companies, to evict Miller.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Herschkowitz wrote: “This caused an incalculable waste of time and services and arguably affected the efficacy of local law-enforcement’s reaction times to other serious calls for service around the city.” While some concur, others are questioning why such an overreaching response was necessary to handle a mentally-ill man who simply climbed a tree.
Miller’s estranged mother, Lisa Gossett, told The Seattle Times that she has not spoken to her son in years after refusing numerous attempts of help with his mental illness. She laments over the state her son is in, but also expressed disgust at how the attention was for the tree, not the mental state of her son.
“There are all of these people out there worried about the tree but they’re not worried about him, the human,” she said. “He’s obviously sick. It feels very hopeless.”
Miller has suffered greatly from his mental illness; to give an example, he was reported missing on December 23, 2015, only to be found wandering the streets alone 7 days later.
Officially, Miller has been charged with malicious mischief and assault. He has also been ordered to have “no contact” with any trees pending his release. Given that he has not held a job for many years, it is unlikely that Miller’s $50,000 bail will be paid before his court date on Monday; as a result, it is likely that he will remain a prisoner – which costs about $100 a day in the state of Washington – rather than a recipient of mental health rehabilitation. His plight begs serious questions about the state of our mental health systems and how we are continuing to criminalize a medical issue.
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