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Fed. court grants forcible treatment of defendant's mental illness

It has been a while since we spoke of the insanity defense in this blog. As a reminder, this is a form of affirmative defense in which the plaintiff admits committing the actions the prosecution accuses him of, but argues that he or she was unable to stop him- or herself due to mental illness.

It now appears that, in at least some cases, federal courts can order invasive mental health treatments like injections upon defendants to make them competent for trial, over the defendant’s objections. This is what has happened to a Michigan man charged with threatening U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Following the forcible injections, the man has pleaded guilty to interstate communication of a threat related to a 2012 phone call.

The man, whom the government believes is living with paranoid schizophrenia, also called the offices of Sen. Debbie Stabenow and then-U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee. In the latter call, reports, he claimed that the Michigan Department of Corrections had given him leukemia and implanted an “RF unit” in his body. He said that if Kildee did not help him the congressman would be “one dead [expletive],” according to an FBI affidavit. Police arrested the man the day after he called Kildee.

The court found the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial. But prosecutors requested the power to treat the defendant with injected medication. The defendant, denying he was mentally ill, objected to treatment, but a federal judge allowed the treatment in June 2014. The man appealed, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the forcible injections that December.

Since then, the treatments have made the defendant competent in the eyes of the law, leading to his guilty plea.

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