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U.S. v. WESTON

March 6, 2001

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 case is on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The government advances two justifications for treating defendant, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., involuntarily with antipsychotic medication. First, the government maintains that such treatment is medically appropriate and essential to render Weston non-dangerous based on medical/safety concerns, considering less intrusive means. Second, the government contends that this treatment is medically appropriate and essential to restore Weston's competency to stand trial because it cannot obtain an adjudication of his guilt or innocence using less intrusive means. Weston's attorneys' contend that the treatment is not medically appropriate because it will not restore Weston's competency and is unethical, that Weston is not dangerous, and that his trial rights will be unduly prejudiced, if medicated. Upon consideration of the government's justifications, the opposition thereto, the potential impact of antipsychotic medication on Weston's trial rights, relevant statutory and case law, the record of proceedings, evidence, and arguments of counsel at the numerous judicial oversight/evidentiary hearings, the Court authorizes the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") to treat Weston involuntarily with antipsychotic medication.

BACKGROUND

Weston is charged in a six-count federal indictment with the premeditated murders of United States Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson, while they were engaged in their official duties as federal law enforcement officers; one count of attempted murder of United States Capitol Police Officer Douglas B. McMillan, while he was engaged in his official duties as a federal law enforcement officer; one count of carrying and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and two counts of carrying and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and causing a death thereby. Although the Court will not repeat the extensive procedural history of this case, a detailed account of which is found in United States v. Weston, 69 F. Supp.2d 99 (D.C. 1999), the key facts are as follows.

On October 15, 1998, after a joint request by the government and Weston's attorneys, the Court appointed Dr. Sally C. Johnson,*fn1 pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(b), to conduct an inpatient psychiatric examination of Weston to assist the Court in determining Weston's competency to stand trial. Dr. Johnson examined Weston and concluded that he was not competent to stand trial. On April 22, 1999, the Court found Weston not competent to proceed to trial, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4241(d). The Court committed Weston 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. At Weston's attorneys' request, the Court stayed any action by the BOP to medicate him without his consent and ordered the BOP to provide his attorneys with notice of any administrative hearing.

Weston was admitted to Federal Correctional Institute at Butner ("FCI-Butner") on May 5, 1999. On May 20, 1999, Dr. Johnson, his treating psychiatrist, requested a court order to treat Weston with antipsychotic medication. According to Dr. Johnson, Weston refused to consent to the proposed treatment, triggering an administrative hearing. See 28 C.F.R. § 549.43 et seq. The hearing officer determined that Weston could be treated involuntarily with antipsychotic medication for the following reasons; (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 (7) medication is necessary to treat his mental illness. Weston appealed the hearing officer's decision, and the Warden affirmed.

After the first administrative hearing, the Court exercised its judicial oversight responsibility and conducted a judicial hearing, on May 28, 1999, to review the decision to medicate Weston. The Court remanded the decision to the BOP for further proceedings due to the Court's concerns that the BOP had not precisely followed the Court's April 22, 1999 Order and fully complied with the procedures for the administrative hearing. See United States v. Weston, 55 F. Supp.2d 23 (D.C. 1999).

On remand, a staff representative presented evidence to support Weston's position. He advanced arguments provided to him by Weston's attorneys and presented a report by Weston's expert witness, Raquel E. Gur, MD., Ph.D., Professor and Director of Neuropsychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. After the second hearing, the hearing officer again determined that Weston could be medicated involuntarily for the identical reasons articulated at the first hearing. Weston again appealed the hearing officer's decision, and the Warden again affirmed.

On August 20, 1999, the Court held a second judicial oversight/evidentiary hearing to review the second decision to medicate Weston. Dr. Johnson testified and, pursuant to Weston's attorneys' request, the Court admitted Dr. Gur's written comments into the evidentiary record. The Court upheld the BOP's decision to medicate Weston. See Weston, 69 F. Supp.2d at 118.

Weston appealed the decision and the D.C. Circuit remanded the case for further consideration. See United States v. Weston, 206 F.3d 9 (D.C.Cir. 2000) (per curiam). Accordingly, the Court conducted a four-day hearing in July 2000, during which the government advanced two justifications for medicating Weston: (1) to render him non-dangerous and (2) to render him competent for trial. Dr. Johnson and the following additional government expert witnesses in forensic psychiatry, forensic psychology, and medical ethics testified: Dr. Deborah DePrato,*fn2 Dr. Howard Zonana,*fn3 and Dr. Edward Landis.*fn4 The defense presented Professor Maxwell Gregg Bloche.*fn5 Fact witnesses, including those with day-to-day treatment responsibility for Weston, also testified.

For the following reasons, the Court determined that it was in Weston's best interest to appoint an independent mental health expert, pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 706. First, several witnesses testified regarding a potential ethical conflict arising from Dr. Johnson's three roles in this case as the forensic evaluator on the issue of competency, an expert witness for the government, and Weston's treating psychiatrist. They opined that the treating and forensic roles should be kept separate.*fn6 See Hearing Transcript ("Tr.") 7/25/00 P.M. at 67-69; 7/26/00 P.M. Tr. at 29-34, 67, 70. Second, Weston's attorneys maintained that a conflict of interest could occur because Weston's medical and legal interests may conflict. Accordingly, they requested the Court to appoint a separate individual to represent Weston's medical interests.*fn7 Finally, the Court had concerns about Weston's competency to make medical decisions.

The Court appointed Dr. David Daniel,*fn8 "for the purpose of providing the Court with an expert opinion as to whether it is in the defendant's medical interests to administer antipsychotic medication without his consent."*fn9 United States v. Weston, No. 98-357, August 23, 2000 Order (D.C.). On November 6, 2000, Dr. Daniel filed a comprehensive report with the Court and served it on the parties. On November 15, 2000, the Court held another evidentiary hearing at which the parties and the Court extensively examined Dr. Daniel. The Court admitted Dr. Daniel's report into evidence, and it is incorporated in this Opinion as if set forth seriatim.

DISCUSSION

Weston possesses a significant liberty interest in avoiding unwanted antipsychotic medication protected by the substantive component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. See Riggins v. Nevada, 504 U.S. 127, 134, 112 S.Ct. 1810, 118 L.Ed.2d 479 (1992); Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 221, 110 S.Ct. 1028, 108 L.Ed.2d 178 (1990). In Harper, the Supreme Court held that a convicted inmate "possesses a significant liberty interest in avoiding the unwanted administration of antipsychotic drugs." Harper, 494 U.S. at 221, 110 S.Ct. 1028 (citing Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 491-94, 100 S.Ct. 1254, 63 L.Ed.2d 552 (1980); Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 316, 102 S.Ct. 2452, 73 L.Ed.2d 28 (1982); Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 600-01, 99 S.Ct. 2493, 61 L.Ed.2d 101 (1979)).*fn10 A pretrial detainee's liberty interests are at least equal to that of a convicted prisoner. See Riggins, 504 U.S. at 135, 112 S.Ct. 1810; Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979).

In Riggins, the Supreme Court stated:

Although we have not had occasion to develop substantive standards for judging forced administration of such drugs in the trial or pretrial settings, Nevada certainly would have satisfied due process if the prosecution had demonstrated, and the District Court had found, that treatment with antipsychotic medication was medically appropriate and, considering less intrusive alternatives, essential for the sake of Riggins' own safety or the safety of others. Similarly, the State might have been able to justify medically appropriate, involuntary treatment with the drug by establishing that it could not obtain an adjudication of Riggins' guilt or innocence by using less intrusive means.

Riggins, 504 U.S. at 135, 112 S.Ct. 1810 (internal citations omitted).

The D.C. Circuit did not prescribe a substantive standard for this Court's review "preferring instead to await the [Court's] findings on remand using the guidance that Riggins provides." Weston, 206 F.3d at 12-13.*fn11 Accordingly, the Court applied the Riggins guidance to address both of the government's justifications for treating Weston involuntarily with antipsychotic medication. The government bears the burden of proof on these issues by clear and convincing evidence.*fn12 See Riggins, 504 U.S. at 135, 112 S.Ct. 1810 (citing Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418, 99 S.Ct. 1804, 60 L.Ed.2d 323 (1979)); Brandon, 158 F.3d at 960.

On remand, the government contends that the Court should allow it to treat Weston involuntarily with antipsychotic medication because it is medically appropriate and necessary to attain two essential government interests: to render him non-dangerous for medical/safety concerns and to render him competent to stand trial. Therefore, the Court first analyzed whether antipsychotic treatment is medically appropriate, including whether treatment violates medical ethics. The Court concludes treatment with antipsychotic medication is medically appropriate to treat Weston's illness. Second, the Court analyzed each interest the government advances: treating Weston's dangerousness and making him competent for trial. The Court concludes that each interest is compelling and either will support the proposed treatment, in light of less intrusive alternatives. Third, the Court analyzed the potential impact of involuntary medication on Weston's fair trial rights. At this stage of the proceedings, the Court concludes that while involuntary medication may impact these rights if Weston is tried, they will not be so affected as to prevent him from receiving a fair trial.

I. The Proposed Treatment is Medically Appropriate

Weston is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. The parties do not dispute that treatment with antipsychotic medication is the only therapeutic intervention that may address Weston's symptoms, lessen his delusions, and make him competent to stand trial. They do dispute whether antipsychotic medication is medically appropriate given a range of considerations, including its likely side effects and medical ethics implications.

A. Treatment for Weston's Condition

Antipsychotic medication is the medically acceptable and indicated treatment for Weston's illness. See Tr. at 11 (Dr. Johnson); Dr. Daniel's Report at 38; 7/25/00 P.M. Tr. at 10-11 (Dr. DePrato); 7/26/00 P.M. Tr. at 67-68 (Dr. Zonana). While Weston's attorneys do not propose any alternative treatments for Weston's symptoms, they dispute the efficacy of antipsychotic medication. Weston's expert, Dr. Gur, opined that "within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, . . . antipsychotic medication will not restore Mr. Weston's competency." Dr. Gur Ltr. at ¶ 4. Dr. Gur explained the basis for her opinion:

In light of the length of time (about two decades) that he has experienced delusions, the pervasiveness of his delusional system, lack of treatment, and the unfortunate fact that he has acted on his delusions, make it extremely unlikely that medication will eliminate or substantially attenuate his delusions. There is a growing body of evidence that suggest[s] that when the psychotic process remains untreated it causes further deterioration in brain function resembling an irreversible toxic effect.

Id. at ¶ 4.

Dr. Johnson opines that Weston's delusions do not reach back twenty years, at least not in their current form. Rather, "it's only been in the later years, particularly from 1996 to present, that we have seen this full-blown delusional system." 7/8/99 Tr. at 58-59. She testified that the chance Weston will respond positively to the treatment is enhanced because he has had relatively little exposure to antipsychotic medication. See 8/20/99 Tr. at 56. Weston already exhibited a receptiveness to treatment with antipsychotic medication in 1996 in Montana. See 7/27/00 A.M. Tr. at 121.*fn13 Specifically, Weston was "calmer, less agitated, less threatening, exhibited some insight that he was ill, less emotionally invested in his delusional material and better able to attend to other matters after treatment." Dr. Daniel's Report at 40. Moreover, approximately seventy to eighty percent of schizophrenics respond positively to medication. See 7/24/00 P.M. Tr. at 108.

Dr. Daniel concurs that Weston is likely to benefit from treatment with antipsychotic medication. See Dr. Daniel's Report at 34. He notes that nearly all patients with acute psychotic symptoms benefit from antipsychotic medication. See id. at 35. Dr. Daniel also opines that Weston will respond favorably to medication, based on his response to treatment in 1996, noting that "[c]linicians generally regard past treatment response as a valuable predictor of future treatment response." Id. at 40.

The Court credits Dr. Daniel and the government experts and concludes that antipsychotic medication is the medically appropriate treatment for Weston's condition.

B. Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medication

The Court must balance the potential efficacy of antipsychotic medication against the likelihood and severity of its potential side effects, which are relevant to Weston's medical interests and trial rights. Here, the Court will focus on Weston's medical interests. The Court will scrutinize the fair trial implications in that section of this Opinion.

The likelihood and severity of possible side effects depend on the type of antipsychotic medication administered. Generally, there are two categories of antipsychotics: (1) typicals, the older generation of antipsychotics, and (2) atypicals, the newer antipsychotics with lower side effect profiles. Currently, atypical antipsychotic medications are not available in injectable form. See 7/24/00 P.M. Tr. at 64-66. Dr. Johnson has stated that she would not attempt to treat Weston with atypical antipsychotics, but would start with Haldol, an injectable typical with which the side effect tardive dyskinesia is closely associated. See id. at 64-65, 92-94. Dr. Johnson's clinical experience suggests that following the short-term use of an injectable typical antipsychotic on an involuntary basis, the patient generally begins to respond ...


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