Federal court upholds anti-psychotic drug injections as condition of release

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] Tuesday ruled [PDF text] that the government can require convicts to receive injections of anti-psychotic medication as a condition of their supervised release. Philip Holman repeatedly failed to abide by a condition of his supervised release that required him to take oral anti-psychotic drugs. A federal court in Virginia ordered that Holman should instead receive injections, but Holman claimed that the injections violated his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments [text], arguing they were not medically necessary and that less intrusive alternatives existed. The Fourth Circuit held:

The evidence establishing Holman’s dangerousness also establishes that the district court’s order was narrowly tailored to the circumstances of this case. As the district court noted, Holman became a danger to himself and others when he was off his medication, and injections of long-lasting antipsychotic drugs provide the only means of insuring that Holman takes his medication. The special condition of supervised release thus significantly furthers and is clearly necessary to further the government’s interests in protecting Holman and the public.
Holman did not dispute that the government could require him to take the oral form of the drug.

Last month, lawyers for death-row inmate Richard Taylor arranged a plea agreement [attorney blog post] to prevent their client from being executed, arguing that Taylor was tried despite extreme mental illness [ACLU press release] and that his murder of a prison guard occurred as a result of authorities' refusal to administer anti-psychotic medication. In 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled on Sell v. United States [PDF], finding that anti-psychotic medications can be administered to make a defendant competent to stand trial. The Court held that an order to involuntarily medicate an individual may be necessary if "any alternative, less intrusive treatments are unlikely to achieve substantially the same results."

 

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