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U.S. v. WESTON

September 9, 1999

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RUSSELL EUGENE WESTON, JR., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court for its consideration of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") decision to administer antipsychotic medication to the defendant, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., over his objection. The defendant is a pretrial detainee committed by this Court to the custody of the BOP for competency restoration pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241 (d). Following two administrative involuntary medication hearings ("administrative hearing"), the BOP has determined that antipsychotic medication may be administered to the defendant without his consent because: (1) he suffers from a mental disorder, (2) he is dangerous to himself and others, (3) he is gravely disabled, (4) he is unable to function in the open mental health population, (5) he needs to be rendered competent for trial, (6) he is mentally ill and medication is necessary to treat the mental illness.

Upon consideration of the BOP decision to medicate the defendant over his objection, the opposition thereto, relevant statutory and case law, the record of proceedings, evidence and arguments of counsel at two judicial oversight/evidentiary hearings ("judicial hearing"), the Court authorizes the BOP to administer antipsychotic medication to the defendant, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., over his objection.

BACKGROUND

The defendant has been charged in a six-count indictment with the premeditated murders of United States Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson, the attempted murder of United States Capitol Police Officer Douglas B. McMillan, and three counts of carrying and use of a firearm during a crime of violence. The government contends that all of these events occurred on the grounds of the United States Capitol on July 24, 1998, while the victims were engaged in their official duties as federal law enforcement officers.

On October 15, 1998, after a joint request by the government and the defendant, this Court appointed Sally C. Johnson, M.D., Associate Warden Health Services, Mental Health Division, Federal Correctional Institution-Butner ("FCI-Butner"), pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241 (b), to conduct an outpatient psychiatric examination of the defendant to assist the Court in determining whether the defendant is competent to stand trial. At that time, the defendant's poor physical condition precluded moving him from the District of Columbia to Butner for an inpatient evaluation. Dr. Johnson then examined the defendant for approximately twenty hours, and in her November 12, 1998 report, she concluded that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial. Following a number of continuances requested by both sides, the Court scheduled a competency hearing for February 22, 1999.

After receiving Dr. Johnson's report, the government then moved to compel a second psychiatric examination of the defendant by its expert. The defendant opposed the additional examination, contending that the government had suggested the initial appointment of Dr. Johnson. On January 28, 1999, the Court granted the government's motion and, sua sponte, ordered an inpatient psychiatric examination of the defendant at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Springfield, Missouri.*fn1 See United States v. Weston, 36 F. Supp.2d 7 (D.D.C. 1999). The defendant appealed the Court's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and moved for a stay pending the appeal. The Court of Appeals denied both the defendant's motion for a stay and the government's motion for summary affirmance. See United States v. Weston, No. 99-3016, February 5, 1999 Order (D.C.Cir.) (per curiam). Thereafter, this Court rescheduled the competency hearing for April 19, 1999.

In late February 1999, the government and defense counsel informed the Court that the defendant refused to be examined by either the Court-appointed psychiatrist at Springfield or the government's expert. Since neither expert was able to examine the defendant, the Court ordered that the defendant be returned to the District of Columbia for the competency hearing. On March 16, 1999, the Court provided the parties with a pre-hearing order requiring the parties to provide information regarding the witnesses and exhibits that each side expected to present at the competency hearing. The Court also ordered the parties to brief the issue of the possible forced medication of the defendant.

On April 9, 1999, because of the inability of its expert to examine the defendant, the government withdrew its objection to a finding of incompetency, and on April 22, 1999, the Court found the defendant to be incompetent to proceed to trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241 (d). The Court then committed the defendant to the custody of the Attorney General for hospitalization and treatment to determine whether a substantial probability existed that he would attain the capacity to permit the trial to proceed in the foreseeable future. See United States v. Weston, Criminal Action No. 98-357 (EGS), April 22, 1999 Order (D.D.C.). As part of the Court's Order and at the defendant's request, the Court stayed any action by the BOP to medicate the defendant without his consent and ordered the BOP to provide defense counsel with notice of any administrative hearing. See id.

The defendant was admitted to FCI-Butner on May 5, 1999, with Dr. Johnson as his treating physician. On May 20, Dr. Johnson requested a Court order to treat the defendant with antipsychotic medication. See Dr. Johnson Ltr., at 1-2 (5/20/99). According to Dr. Johnson, the defendant refused to consent to the proposed treatment, which resulted in the convening of an administrative hearing. See 28 C.F.R. § 549.43 et seq. Pursuant to administrative procedures, Mr. Ray Pitcairn, the Day Watch Nursing Supervisor, was appointed by the hearing Officer, Dr. Bryon Herbel, to serve as the defendant's Staff Representative. See Dr. Johnson Ltr., Notice of Medication Hearing Rights and Advisement of Rights (5/20/99).

The hearing officer determined that the defendant could be medicated against his will because: (1) he suffers from a mental disorder, (2) he is dangerous to self or others, (3) he is gravely disabled, (4) he is unable to function in the open mental health population, (5) he needs to be rendered competent for trial, (6) he is mentally ill, and medication is necessary to treat the mental illness. See Dr. Johnson Ltr., Involuntary Medication Report, at 7 (5/20/99). The defendant then appealed the hearing officer's decision, which was subsequently affirmed by the Warden. Dr. Johnson stated that during her interview with the defendant on May 20, the defendant "indicate[d] that he would cooperate with medication if his attorneys advised him to do so and if it was so ordered by the Court." See Dr. Johnson Ltr., at 2.

After the first administrative hearing, the Court exercised its judicial oversight responsibility and conducted a judicial hearing on May 28, 1999, to afford the parties an opportunity to address the BOP decision and its rationale and to afford the defendant an opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Johnson and the defendant's staff representative regarding their testimony and participation at the administrative hearing. Dr. Johnson described the process by which the decision to medicate the defendant was made as well as the substantive bases for that decision. The defendant cross-examined Dr. Johnson on all aspects of her testimony, especially focusing on the bases for her determination that the defendant is dangerous to himself and others, the potential side effects of the medication, the alternatives to medication, and the probability that the defendant will be made competent as a result of the treatment. The defendant also cross-examined the staff representative, Mr. Pitcairn, on his role during the administrative hearing.

The Court questioned the witnesses in an effort to understand the bases for Dr. Johnson's opinion to medicate the defendant and to understand the administrative hearing process that was followed. In addition, the Court questioned defense counsel regarding Dr. Johnson's statement in her May 20 letter that the defendant would cooperate with the medication if ordered by the Court. According to defense counsel, the defendant's position is that if the Court orders that he be medicated, "he is not going to force them to hold him down and inject him with medication." Hr'g Tr., at 3 (5/28/99).

After the judicial hearing, the Court remanded the decision to the BOP for further proceedings as appropriate because of the Court's concerns that the BOP had not precisely followed the Court's April 22, 1999 Order or the procedures for the administrative hearing. See United States v. Weston, 55 F. Supp.2d 23 (D.D.C. 1999). In particular, the Court found that defense counsel had not been notified of the date of the initial administrative hearing and that the defendant's staff representative had failed to present any evidence or witnesses in support of the defendant's position.*fn2

Pursuant to the remand, Dr. Johnson provided defense counsel with notice of the date and time for the second administrative hearing. Thus, Mr. Pitcairn, who was again appointed by the Hearing Officer to serve as the defendant's Staff Representative, was able to present evidence in support of the defendant's position — a report from the defendant's expert witness, Raquel E. Gur, MD., Ph.D., Professor and Director of ...


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