The WaPo has an article about a man named Charles T. Sell who is refusing the anti-pychotic medication which would make him mentally competant enough to stand trial. What's interesting is that the crimes he is accused of aren't violent in nature -- he's a dentist who has been charged with Medicaid fraud. The Supreme Court has just ruled that since he isn't a danger to himself or others, and hasn't been charged with any violent offenses, forcibly medicating him against his wishes does not "significantly further" an "important" government objective, and would not be "medically appropriate".

The vote in the Supreme Court was 6-3, and I really have no problem with it; I'm pretty much neutral. Justice Bryer does raise one issue that causes me some distress, however:

The U.S. government indicted him on charges of Medicaid fraud in 1997, but courts have found him to be so mentally ill that he is not competent to stand trial. Those courts have agreed with government doctors who say the only hope of rendering him competent is to administer anti-psychotic drugs -- by force, if necessary -- but Sell, citing the drugs' sometimes debilitating side effects and his own constitutional rights, has refused. ...

During the arguments on in March, Justice John Paul Stevens noted that Sell has already been confined longer than he would have been if convicted on all counts of the Medicaid fraud indictment.

Society has no compelling interest in further prosecuting this man, guilty or not. It's a tremendous waste of government resources to pursue this issue any further, and Charles T. Sell should be released immediately based on his non-violent condition and the time he has already been imprisoned. The prosecutor in charge of the case, however, feels differently.
But Deputy Solicitor General Michael R. Dreeben, arguing for the government, told the court that Sell has himself to blame for his extended stay behind bars, since he is one of only a handful of people who have ever litigated their refusal to be medicated to such an extent.

"Most individuals accept the fact . . . that medication is the appropriate, medically sanctioned way" to get better for trial, Dreeben said.

The Supreme Court has just ruled that the "fact" Dreeben refers to is actually false.



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