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 The Arizona District Court has ruled that jailers may force spree killer Jared Lee Loughner to take anti-psychotic drugs. Our own Chris Dumm comments: “This decision green-lights the decision by the mental hospital staff to forcibly medicate Loughner to prevent him from harming himself or others. It strips a level of procedural and substantive due process from some, but not all, mentally incompetent defendants like Loughner . . .

Under the Sell rule, an incompetent defendant has a right to an adversarial court hearing to determine whether or not they can be forcibly medicated to restore their competency. The court must determine that the medication is medically appropriate, that it won’t substantially impair the defendant’s rights to a fair trial, and that other less-intrusive alternatives have been considered. The defendant’s lawyers are able to present their own evidence, cross-examine the government’s doctors, and present their own alternatives to forcible medication.

This decision, relying on the Supreme Court case Washington v. Harper, shows that the Sell level of constitutional protection is not available to incompetent pretrial defendants who are *violent* in custody. Violent incompetent defendants are entitled only to an administrative (read: rubber-stamp) hearing conducted by prison or mental hospital officials. The incompetent prisoner is only given one day’s notice that there will be a hearing, he has no right to an attorney, and there is no consideration of how the medication will impair his constitutional right to a fair trial.

Since Loughner threw his furniture around and tried to attack his lawyer, they get to medicate him without a court hearing, and they don’t just get to knock him out with phenobarbitol: they get to treat his underlying mental condition, which will (if effective) restore him to competency.

Lawyers never give quick answers, do we?”

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  1. Don’t get the beef, and don’t get how attempting to stabilize a violent person impairs their right to a fair trial. Let the jury know he’s CURRENTLY medicated, let them know he WASN’T at the time of the crime, and trust their judgement on how much that matters.

    Wouldn’t it hurt his defense more if he were brought into court in a “Hannibal Lecter” style full-body restraint? Or if, unrestrained, he had violent outbursts, throwing furniture and attempting to attack his lawyer, in front of the jurors?

    • Why does he need meds anyway? I thought that he wasn’t crazy, he had just listed to too much right-wing radio. I am pretty sure you don’t need a court order to take his radio away. Just give him a couple weeks with no foxnews and I’m sure he will be perfectly fine.

  2. Looking at that picture, I’d say he’s one step from being called “Corky” and humping his chair.

  3. He’s being medicated against his will? Poor boy. Since he shot a whole lot of people against their will, I say f^ck him.

  4. An appeals court just order his meds stopped. This is getting a little crazy. Well, you know what I mean.

  5. Late Friday, the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ordered the medications stopped until a hearing is held. As reported by the Arizona Daily Star here:

    If the man is a danger to himself, facility staff, and others, then he should be medicated. Part of the reason for medicating him is to help him get better so he is capable of standing trial, i.e. help in his own defense. His lawyers don’t want him to get medicated and thus get better enough to help in his own defense. No medication delays any trial. This fight will continue so long as the lawyers get paid and they will get paid out of the public till as he has a public defender.

    There will be a hearing later this week, so the meds may start again after the hearing.

  6. This *is* getting crazy, with various courts issuing rulings faster than I can analyze them. At this moment it looks likes Loughner will get a so-called Sell hearing, where his attorneys will argue for alternative safety measures or less-powerful medication.

    After this blizzard of motiona and hearings, it is entirely possible that the three-judge panel will order exactly the same medications that were ordered after the first administrative hearing.

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