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Should Russell Weston Be Forced to Take Medication?

By Elaine Cassel

A federal district judge in Washington, D.C. is deliberating a unique question of law. Should Russell Weston, the chronic schizophrenic who stormed into the U.S. Capitol building two years ago and killed two police officers (who, he insists, were keeping him from retrieving the Ruby Satellite that was going to save the world from cannibalism), be forced to take antipsychotic medication so that he can be tried for capital murder? If convicted, he could face execution.

Since his arrest two years ago, Weston has been confined to a federal prison hospital and refused medication. Hospital staff report that his mental condition is deteriorating, though there is scant evidence that he is dangerous to himself or guards. His active psychosis renders him incompetent to be tried, since he cannot understand the proceedings or assist his attorneys in his defense. His attorneys correctly argue that there is no precedent for forcing a inmate who is not dangerous to receive antipsychotic medication.

They also note that if Weston were medicated for the purposes of a trial, jurors would see a different man than the one who committed the crimes. His courtroom demeanor might reflect a mask of medication-induced sanity that would leave the jurors hard-pressed to believe that Weston was suffering from a psychosis so severe that he did not know what he was doing when he killed the police officers.

Prosecutors argue that they have the right to bring him to trial and, if the jury finds him guilty, to seek the death penalty.

Regardless of how the judge rules, the losing party is likely to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may be the ultimate arbiter of this interesting, but troubling, issue.

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