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Court OKs Limited Drugging of Defendants
Associated Press ^ | 06/16/03 | Staff Writer

Posted on 06/16/2003 7:50:31 AM PDT by bedolido

Supreme Court Rules There Are Limits on When Government Can Forcibly Drug Criminal Defendants

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that there are limits on when the government can forcibly medicate mentally ill criminal defendants to make them well enough to stand trial for fraud or other charges.

The 6-3 ruling, a defeat for prosecutors, means that the government will have to revise a common practice now of putting defendants on anti-psychotric drugs for their trials. Justices said that the Constitution allows the government to administer drugs only "in limited circumstances."

The case required the court to balance the government's interest in punishing nonviolent crime with a person's constitutional right to control his or her body.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said that courts in considering individual cases must decide if involuntary medications "will significant further" interests in punishments.

The federal government puts hundreds of defendants on medication each year to make them competent to stand trial. Most take the drugs willingly. In a recent 12-month period, 59 people were medicated against their wishes and about three-fourths were restored to competency, the government has said.

In a series of decisions more than a decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled that inmates considered dangerous could be forced to take medication and that defendants in criminal trials could be required to take drugs if it was medically appropriate.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


TOPICS: Breaking News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: court; defendants; drugging; limited; wodlist

1 posted on 06/16/2003 7:50:31 AM PDT by bedolido
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To: bedolido
The case required the court to balance the government's interest in punishing nonviolent crime with a person's constitutional right to control his or her body.

Rulings like this are going to be the death of constitutional protections. The Constitution either protects, or it doesn't protect - that is, a right either exists or it doesn't exist. There's no "balance" involved.

2 posted on 06/16/2003 8:03:37 AM PDT by inquest
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To: inquest; *Wod_list
a person's constitutional right to control his or her body.

What right is this, and how does the War On (some) Drugs mesh with this right?

3 posted on 06/16/2003 9:06:19 AM PDT by coloradan
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To: Wolfie; vin-one; WindMinstrel; philman_36; Beach_Babe; jenny65; AUgrad; Xenalyte; Bill D. Berger; ..
WOD Ping
4 posted on 06/16/2003 9:53:58 AM PDT by jmc813 (After two years of FReeping, I've finally created a profile page. Check it out!)
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To: coloradan
They are gonna have to dance on the razor's edge to define that one.
5 posted on 06/16/2003 10:57:02 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Even if the government took all your earnings, you wouldn’t be, in its eyes, a slave.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants
Not much of a description of the ruling to even form an opinion.
6 posted on 06/16/2003 10:59:12 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Even if the government took all your earnings, you wouldn’t be, in its eyes, a slave.)
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To: bedolido
a big HUH?
7 posted on 06/16/2003 11:00:26 AM PDT by OXENinFLA
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To: inquest
Agreed. Government has no legitimate interest that has the weight to balance against a citizen's Constitutional rights.
8 posted on 06/16/2003 11:07:17 AM PDT by thoughtomator (Road Map = Road Kill)
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To: Blood of Tyrants
This Reuters article expands with a much better description, IMHO:

High Court Limits Forced Medication for Trial

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A divided U.S. Supreme Court put limits on Monday on when the government may force defendants to take anti-psychotic drugs to make them competent to stand trial for serious, but nonviolent, crimes.

By a 6-3 vote, the high court allowed forced medication if the treatment was medically appropriate, substantially unlikely to have side effects that may undermine the trial's fairness and necessary to further important governmental trial-related interests, taking into account less intrusive alternatives.

Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said the standard would permit forced medication solely to make defendants competent to stand trial only under certain limited circumstances.

Breyer said the number of instances may be rare.

The court ordered more proceedings in the case, which involved Dr. Charles Sell, a dentist from a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, who was charged in 1997 with Medicaid and insurance fraud.

Government and defense psychologists diagnosed him as suffering from "delusional disorder, persecutory type." He was found to be suffering from mental illness that made him incompetent to stand trial.

Sell has been held in a mental health facility at a federal prison while awaiting trial. A U.S. appeals court upheld a federal judge's decision that Sell could be medicated against his will so he can stand trial.

Breyer said the appeals court was wrong in approving forced medication solely to render Sell competent to stand trial.

In setting aside the appeals court's ruling, Breyer said the appeals court did not find that the required circumstances existed in this case.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, there recently have been 59 criminal defendants forced to take antipsychotic medication.

In a recent 12-month period, 80 percent of 285 defendants found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial voluntarily accepted medication. Of the remaining 59 who were treated against their will, many of them did not seek judicial review, the department said.

Breyer said Sell had a long history of mental illness dating back to 1982, when he was hospitalized and treated with antipsychotic medication.

In 1997, Sell told law enforcement personnel that he "spoke to God last night" and was told "a soul will be saved" for every FBI person he kills.

In sending the case back for more hearings, Breyer said the lower courts failed to consider whether the medication's side effects were likely to undermine the fairness of Sell's trial.

He said the lower courts also did not consider that Sell already has been confined for a long time, and that his refusal to be medicated might result in further lengthy confinement. Those factors would moderate, but not eliminate, the importance of the government's interest in prosecution, Breyer said.

Justice Antonin Scalia, Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas dissented from the ruling.

"Today's narrow holding will allow criminal defendants ... to engage in opportunistic behavior," Scalia said. "They can, for example, voluntarily take their medication until halfway through trial, then abruptly refuse and demand an ... appeal from the order that medication continue on a compulsory basis."

9 posted on 06/16/2003 11:14:36 AM PDT by AntiGuv (™)
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To: bedolido
Does this mean that they'll be putting the judges of the 9th Circuit back on their meds?
10 posted on 06/16/2003 12:22:55 PM PDT by Redcloak (All work and no FReep makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no FReep make s Jack a dul boy. Allwork an)
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To: bedolido
One of the problems here is that the law often allows for people to be psychiatrically hospitalized if found not competent to stand trial. They are then treated to regain that competency to stand trial.

This may, in fact, be a positive outcome for a defendant if they had committed a crime. If found guilty, they are then sentenced for a DETERMINATE period of time. However, if they are found not competent to stand trial AND they are not treated to regain competency, they are in essence incarcerated for an INDETERMINATE period of time since charges cannot be resolved with an incompetent defendant who refuses to be returned to competency.

11 posted on 06/16/2003 12:28:44 PM PDT by johniegrad
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To: AntiGuv
I am surprised that the Scalia and Thomas dissented.

Forced medication of defendants is a scary notion in the first place, and it is a power that just begs to be abused. The situation evokes memories of the Soviet Union during the cold war.

Since anyone can be institutionalized and forcibly medicated on the signature of two doctors or one doctor and one next-of-kin(at least in SC), it is difficult to imagine what greater power prosecution and LE would rightly want to have in the forcible administration of mind-altering drugs to defendants in the time before a trial.

12 posted on 06/16/2003 1:25:06 PM PDT by Yeti
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To: bedolido
Are they accepting volunteers?
13 posted on 06/16/2003 1:56:23 PM PDT by Warren
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To: Yeti
"I am surprised that the Scalia and Thomas dissented."

Those two as*oles have big fan clubs here at FR, but those same rooters never seem to notice that in any case where the issue is the rights of an individual vs. the powers of the government they side with the government.
14 posted on 06/16/2003 3:43:03 PM PDT by John Beresford Tipton
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To: bedolido
Found an old Washington Times article about the case that the SC just overturned. A bit more detail than today's article has.

Federal Court OKs Forced Drugging
By Kelly Patricia O Meara
Washington Times - Insight Magazine
April 1, 2002

15 posted on 06/16/2003 4:30:49 PM PDT by Dajjal
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To: Yeti; John Beresford Tipton
Scalia, Thomas, and O'Connor dissented because they believed that the Court didn't have jurisdiction to hear the case.
The District Court never entered a final judgment in this case, which should have led the Court of Appeals to wonder whether it had any business entertaining petitioner's appeal. Instead, without so much as acknowledging that Congress has limited court-of-appeals jurisdiction to "appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States," 28 U. S. C. §1291 (emphasis added), and appeals from certain specified interlocutory orders, see §1292, the Court of Appeals proceeded to the merits of Sell's interlocutory appeal. . . . This Court's cases do not authorize appeal from the District Court's April 4, 2001, order, which was neither a "final decision" under §1291 nor part of the class of specified interlocutory orders in §1292. We therefore lack jurisdiction, and I would vacate the Court of Appeals' decision and remand with instructions to dismiss.

MORE


16 posted on 06/16/2003 7:49:51 PM PDT by Sandy
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To: Sandy
"This Court's cases do not authorize appeal from the District Court's April 4, 2001, order, which was neither a "final decision" under §1291 nor part of the class of specified interlocutory orders in §1292"

Horsefeathers.
In Chevron ( attorney-client privlege claim) and in a case of a Belgian who interposed a claim of immunity ( I think it was diplomatic) the Court carved out an exception where the right would be essentially lost if it were necessary to have a final judgment as a prerequiste to an appeal.

E.g., you can't force the divulging of the communication and then on appeal have it found that the communication should not have been divulged.

Here his right to his bodily integrity goes down the tube when they start feeding drugs into him.
17 posted on 06/16/2003 8:02:06 PM PDT by John Beresford Tipton
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To: Sandy
Oops, not Chevron, but Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp, 337 U.S. 541 (1949). It's called the "Cohen collateral order doctrine", first enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp. This doctrine permits an appeal from a nonfinal order if the order "conclusively determine[s] the disputed question, resolve[s] an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and [is] effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment."

Sounds like it fits, just like a needle in a vein.
18 posted on 06/16/2003 8:22:27 PM PDT by John Beresford Tipton
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To: Sandy
Scalia, Thomas, and O'Connor dissented because they believed that the Court didn't have jurisdiction to hear the case.

Okay, that sounds more reasonable.

19 posted on 06/17/2003 3:48:42 AM PDT by Yeti
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To: bedolido
When someone commits a crime and is clearly pyschotic, but the government then medicates the person to remove the pyschotic condition so that the then "normal" person can stand trial for their pyschotic doings, is wholly and completely abhorrent to Constitution. It is as close to a "mass production" line of unconstitutional prosecutions as you can get.

Prosecutors serve a purpose in our system, but they must be watched over very carfeully.

It appears this decision is the right one- to limit the use of forced medication to remove the pyschotic condition for the medical benefit of the defendant, but it appears that medication can not be forced upon someone to "qualifiy" them post-crime for competency.

The crime was committed by a pyschotic, but prosecutors wanted to prosecute the "innocent" person who is now medicated and can understand what a nut they used to be.

That is precisely what the Constitution aimed to prohibit.


20 posted on 06/17/2003 5:20:07 AM PDT by GotDangGenius
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To: bedolido
A potentially dangerous precedent is set.
21 posted on 06/17/2003 5:21:38 AM PDT by Destructor
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To: bedolido
I wonder if this could be applied to schools forcing kids to take Riddlin.
22 posted on 06/17/2003 7:18:09 AM PDT by appalachian_dweller (Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. – JC Watts)
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To: AntiGuv
If a defendant were genuinely psychotic, such that treatment was required to allow a minimum competence required to be represented by counsel, then why is that person standing trial instead of being confined in a mental hospital? On other hand, if that psychotic person were left in a total state of incoherence, he would lose total control over his fate, and the entire matter would be essentially left in the hands of a court appointed lawyer, who will call all the shots while his client raves in the background.
23 posted on 06/17/2003 7:19:28 PM PDT by wretchard
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