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United States v. Watson

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

April 29, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOHN WATSON, JR., Defendant.

ORDER

T. S. ELLIS, III, District Judge.

The matter is before the Court on the government's motion to medicate the defendant, John Watson, Jr., involuntarily in order to to restore him to competency. (Doc. 24). On July 18, 2013, the Magistrate Judge found that the government had established by clear and convincing evidence that all four prongs of the Sell test[1] had been satisfied, and therefore ordered the involuntary medication of the defendant to restore him to competency. (Doc. 38). On August 21, 2013, the Magistrate Judge vacated that order, [2] and on August 23, 2014, the Court referred the matter back to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 for further proceedings and for the preparation of a Report and Recommendation concerning the government's motion. (Doc. 56). The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation issued on March 7, 2014, and thereafter, on March 21, 2014, defendant filed his objection to the Report and Recommendation.

Because all facts and legal contentions are adequately set forth in the existing record, oral argument would not aid the decisional process. Accordingly, the matter is now ripe for disposition.

For the reasons that follow, and based on a de novo review of the record, the Court adopts as its own the findings of fact and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge as set forth in the March 7, 2014 Report and Recommendation.

I.

The government has filed a motion seeking to have defendant medicated involuntarily pursuant to the Sell decision, which held that the Fifth Amendment permits the government to administer antipsychotic drugs involuntarily to a mentally ill defendant facing serious criminal charges in order to render that defendant competent to stand trial only if the following four conditions exist:

(1) Important government interests are at stake;
(2) Involuntary medication will significantly further those concomitant interests;
(3) Involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests; and
(4) Involuntary medication is medically appropriate-that is, administration of the drugs is in the patient's best medical interest in light of his medical condition.

Sell, 539 U.S. at 180-181. As the Report and Recommendation correctly notes, the record evidence reflects that the four Sell factors are satisfied in this case, and thus, defendant may be involuntarily medicated consistent with the Fifth Amendment.

A.

The first Sell factor is clearly present here. The government has an unquestionably important interest in bringing defendant to trial for the serious crimes with which he is charged: attempted destruction of an aircraft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 32(a)(1); felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); and use of a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). The maximum sentences allowed for these crimes confirm their seriousness. Thus, the attempted destruction of an aircraft has a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison, felon in possession of a firearm has a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, and the use of a firearm during a crime of violence has a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years in prison, which term of imprisonment must run consecutive to any sentence for any other offenses for which the defendant is convicted. 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). Given the seriousness of these crimes, there is no doubt of the government's important interest in bringing defendant to trial. As the Supreme Court stated in Sell, the government's interest "in bringing to trial an individual accused of a serious crime is important." Sell, 539 U.S. at 180-81. Thus, as the Magistrate Judge correctly concluded, the first prong of Sell is satisfied because defendant has been charged with serious crimes, and the government has an important interest in bringing defendant to trial for these crimes.

Defendant concedes that he has been charged with serious crimes, but argues that the first Sell prong is not satisfied in this case because two special circumstances outweigh the government's interest in bringing defendant to trial: (1) that defendant is likely to prevail on an insanity defense, and (2) that defendant, if not tried, would likely be involuntarily ...


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