As the government has an important interest in prosecuting a defendant charged with the premeditated murder of his cellmate, there will be a hearing to determine whether the defendant will be forced to take antipsychotic medication to restore his competency to stand trial.
A grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Eric Horne with the premeditated murder of his cellmate. The court conducted a competency hearing at which time it found Horne incompetent to stand trial. The court committed Horne to the custody of the Attorney General to be hospitalized for treatment for a reasonable period, not to exceed four months, to determine whether there was a substantial probability that the defendant would attain the capacity to proceed to trial.
By forensic evaluation report, Adeirdre Stribling Riley, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist, opined that Horne continued to suffer from schizoaffective
disorder, bipolar type and an antisocial personality disorder and remained incompetent to proceed to trial. Riley further opined that there was a substantial probability that Horne would attain the capacity to permit trial to proceed, if he were to be treated with antipsychotic medication, which he was refusing. She stated that other less intrusive methods of treatment, such as psychotherapy, were not likely to restore Horne’s competence.
Subsequently, the government moved the court to order that Horne be involuntarily medicated to restore him to competency. Counsel and Horne appeared before the court on Jan. 13, 2020, for a hearing on the motion to address whether important governmental interests are at stake in bringing Horne to trial.
The court in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), set out four factors that must be established before a court can order that a defendant be involuntarily medicated to restore competency: (1) important governmental interests are at stake; (2) the medication must be substantially likely to render the defendant competent and must be substantially unlikely to cause side effects that will interfere significantly with the defendant’s ability to assist in his trial defense; (3) less intrusive treatments are unlikely to restore competency and (4) administration of the medication is medically appropriate.
In this case, Horne is charged with premeditated murder and is facing a mandatory life sentence if convicted. The court finds that Horne is charged with a “serious” crime. Based on the facts before it, this court has no difficulty finding that the government has met its burden to show that it has an important governmental interest in prosecuting Horne. Moreover, even if the court were to assume that Horne would be subject to indefinite civil commitment under 18 U.S.C. § 4246, the court does not find that this would mitigate the government’s interest in prosecuting Horne for this crime.
Next, even if the court assumes that the Fourth Circuit would hold that an insanity finding should be considered in mitigation of the governmental interest in prosecuting most federal criminal cases, the court does not believe that the fact that Horne intends to raise an insanity defense should mitigate the government’s interest in prosecuting this case.
The court finds that the government has demonstrated that it has an important governmental interest in prosecuting Horne on the charge of the premeditated murder of his cellmate. Based on this finding, the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing to determine if the motion for forcible medication should be granted pursuant to Sell.
United States v. Horne, Case No. 18-cr-00010, Jan. 22, 2020. WDVA at Big Stone Gap (Sargent). VLW 020-3-039. 16 pp.