Question of the Week

When a defendant shows signs of mental instability, their competency to stand trial comes into question. The Supreme Court case Sell v. United States sets guidelines for when defendants should be forcibly medicated so that a trial can proceed. The ruling recommends that a judge order medication in select situations in which the government’s interest in adjudicating the crime is substantial. But competency expert Susan A. McMahon recently cautioned that the Sell decision is vague and that judges tend to “default” to forced medication.

Such cases can linger in legal limbo, as with Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. He remains at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, waiting for the judge to rule him competent or for charges to be dismissed.

This week, we’d like to ask: Should defendants be forcibly medicated to be competent for trial? When mental stability is at issue, how can the interests of the government and the rights of the defendant be balanced?

Answer in the comments and on social media via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read the answers to last week’s question and vote for your favorite in our poll: If lawyers made candy hearts, what would yours say?

Featured answers:

Posted by Wiggymore on “You’re appealing in every case.”

Posted by Pete Maloney on Facebook: “This candy heart is a nonbinding expression of a future intent.”

Posted by Boris Milter on Facebook: “Our love has no statute of limitations.”

Posted by @nth_gnz on Instagram: “I love you beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Posted by @SonyaOldsSom on Twitter: “I want to spend all my nonbillable hours with you.”

Do you have an idea for a future question of the week? If so, contact us.