Monday, January 14, 2013

Government’s interest in prosecuting still trumps defendant’s desire to not be forcibly medicated

United States v. Gutierrez, No. 12-50028 (5th Cir. Jan. 11, 2013) (Jolly, Jones, Graves)

Fifth Circuit reviewed the district court’s analysis of Sell factors and affirmed an order directing BOP to involuntarily administer psychiatric medicine to the defendant for the purpose of restoring his competency to stand trial. The defendant had threatened to kill former President George W. Bush, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and their wives. The panel found BOP satisfactorily complied with the applicable regulations, finding that involuntarily medicating the defendant would be in his best medical interests, would likely restore his competency, and was the only treatment that had any chance of success.

The panel also found the Government still had an interest in prosecution despite defense arguments that the defendant would likely continue to be institutionalized (civil commitment), has already spent 31 months in custody (arguably less than the sentence he would receive), arguably would not receive a fair trial (because he’d appear to be more sane than he was at the time of the incident), and would likely be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The panel said that civil commitment was not clear (and that even if it was, it would not diminish the Government’s interest in prosecution), that it was premature to analyze his possible sentencing range, that a defendant does not have the right to appear insane at his trial, and that it’s impossible to determine whether the defendant would even proceed with the insanity defense once restored to competency.  In short, this case did not rise to the "special circumstances" contemplated by Sell that may lessen the Government's interest in prosecution.



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