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Supreme Court Restricts Forced Medication For Defendants With Mental Illness
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC--In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the government cannot force criminal defendants with mental illness to take medication in an attempt to make them "competent to stand trial", except "in limited circumstances".

The case involved former St. Louis dentist Dr. Charles Sell, who has been held for more than four years in a federal prison medical center, while accused of Medicaid fraud and other charges, including conspiring and attempting to kill a witness and an FBI agent.

Sell has been diagnosed with a "delusional disorder", and is considered unfit for trial without the use of anti-psychotic medications.

The government wanted to force him to take the medications so he would be able to stand trial.

"The justices put a pretty high bar for the government to meet," said Barry Short, Sell's lawyer. "The justices didn't buy into what the government wanted, the right to medicate them under any circumstance."

In Monday's ruling, the court said that in a situation such as Sell's, the government must prove it has no other choice but to force medication, and that it has an important interest in prosecuting the crime. The treatment must also be medically appropriate and unlikely to produce side effects that might hurt the defendant's ability to have a fair trial, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the decision.

Related resources:
"Supreme Court Rules in Case Involving Springfield Fed-Med Inmate" (Associated Press via KOLR TV News)

"Sell v. United States" (Findlaw)


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