Monday, March 5, 2012

Reason #146: Forced Medication

More than a year after his rampage in Tucson, and the subsequent medical evaluation that determined he was unfit to stand trial, an appeals court has ruled conclusively Jared Lee Loughner can be given antipsychotic medication against his will.

The matter of contention is that his mental status was determined prior to a trial taking place; indeed, he still hasn't been tried and probably won't be any time soon. Prior to a conviction, detainees normally have the right to refuse any medication they believe to be harmful (of course, if you're crazy enough, you could feel that way about anything), but the appeals court ruled that such rights are superceded by a defendant whose behavior threatens his own well-being or that of hospital staff.

It's clearly a good thing, ultimately, that he's being medicated, and I'll be interested to see if it's eventually determined that he can stand trial. But I also want to point out something that people usually cite as a complaint - that it took a year to resolve the seemingly simple matter of whether the guy needs to be medicated.

The justice system is infamous for moving slowly, and clearly this was the right thing to do, but it's right that the apparent obviousness of a correct course of action shouldn't affect the procedural aspect; Loughner still has rights (his lawyers actually had three different appeals in the works at one point), and it's heartening to see those rights being enforced, whether he's competent enough to recognize that or not. Here's hoping he gets his head together enough one day that we can send the asshole to regular prison.

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