July 22, 2012

Is drugging up mentally ill patients for trial unconstitutional?

The recent movie shootings in the Denver suburb of Aurora made me think of what's a common practice in Texas when a heinous crime is allegedly committed by someone who was apparently mentally ill at the time.

Texas often psychologically medicates suspects in such cases into what it argues is a reasonable fascimile of sanity for them to stand trial. And it got me to wondering if this is constitutional.

First, on Fifth Amendment grounds, isn't a "sane" John Doe arguably a John Doe whom the prosecution will in some way try to force to testify, if you will, against the "insane" John Doe who allegedly committed the crime?

Second, isn't preventing the jury from seeing said John Doe in his alleged mental state at the time of the crime prohibiting the suspect's defense from mounting a fully adequate legal defense?

I'm no lawyer, just an intelligent, curious layperson who just started pondering this.

If not an issue of constitutionality in the trial itself, certainly in sentencing, it seems like this is a tough burden.

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