Monday, April 15, 2013

Wow.  Couple cases last week that should be noted.  Got a little excited about them and jumped out of the blogging “line” to post them here.  Hope that’s OK with my fellow bloggers.

Here’s US v. Grigsby, No. 11-3736 (6th Cir. April 11, 2013) (for publication).

Panel of Judges Merritt, McKeague, and Stranch.

Dist ct entered order allowing gov to involuntarily medicate a defendant who had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic to restore competency.  Given the circumstances, the COA reversed the order and found that the defendant’s liberty interest in avoiding involuntary medication outweighed the government’s interest in prosecution.

Defendant had been charged with three counts of unarmed bank robbery. 

Defendant was middle aged, homeless, and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  Incompetent to stand trial.  Refused oral medicines for schizophrenia.  Not gravely disabled or a danger to himself or others or to the safe functioning of the facility, so no involuntary medication under Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210 (1990).  So gov sought involuntary medication under Sell.  Got order.  Interlocutory appeal by defendant followed. 

Key points:

·         There was an important gov interest in bringing defendant to trial.  Bank robbery is serious. 

·         But the inquiry is “fact intensive.” 

·       Potential for lengthy civil commitment tempers gov’s interest in trial.  Two potential courses for commitment and both should be considered: under 18 USC 4243 (not guilty b/c insane) and 4246 (hospitalization after time for release). 

·         Defendant might be found not guilty by reason of insanity, even if competence is restored.  Undermines gov’s interest in prosecution. 

·         If involuntarily medicated, the defendant would still be in custody for about the same period as the advisory guideline range.  Lessens gov interest in prosecution. 

·         Involuntary medication should be rare. 

·         Side effects of meds could affect fairness of trial.  Defendant might have to stand trial and be subject to involuntary movements, the inability to stay still, a loss of dignified carriage in front of the jury, and difficulties assisting counsel, all caused by the meds.  Side effects can be irreversible.

COA reviews several cases and compares and distinguishes them.

COA points out that “victory” for either party may be a double-edged sword. . . .

Case remanded with anticipation of civil-commitment proceedings. 

Judge McKeague dissented.  Disagrees with the special-circumstances analysis.  Civil commitment is speculative.  Defendant unlikely to prevail on insanity defense.  Disagrees with majority’s discussion of potential sentence and potential side effects.

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