Judge: Weston Can Be Forced to Take Medication
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 9, 1999; 12:51 p.m. EDT
Russell Eugene Weston Jr., the former mental patient accused of killing two police officers at the U.S. Capitol, can be forced to take medication to make him less dangerous and competent for trial, a federal judge ruled today.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan delayed enactment of his order until next Thursday to give defense attorneys time for an appeal. Weston's court-appointed lawyer, A.J. Kramer, said he expected to seek an appellate review.
Weston, diagnosed by numerous psychiatrists as schizophrenic, is accused of murder and other charges in the July 1998 slayings of Capitol police officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson. Because of his mental condition, he hasn't even been arraigned on the charges. His trial has been indefinitely put on hold while he is treated at a federal prison facility in Butner, N.C.
The prison's doctors determined that Weston's best hope for improvement called for antipsychotic medication. The warden, J.R. James, wrote Weston after an administrative hearing in July, saying, "The record indicates that you experience a variety of grandiose and paranoid delusions, including a belief that you are able to reverse time, and that people who are killed are not really dead. Such delusions have caused you to be dangerous to others, and potentially to yourself, gravely disabled, and incompetent for trial."
Weston, however, opposed getting medication. Sullivan convened a hearing on the issue last month. Defense lawyers contended that because of the extended length of Weston's illness – family members say it goes back roughly two decades – there is little likelihood that he will ever recover.
Besides making Weston competent to stand trial, prison officials said medication was needed because he is currently a danger to himself and others.
In today's 51-page opinion, Judge Sullivan said the prison's plans were reasonable. He said the medication was permitted under the law because it was not only meant to restore his competency but also to ensure safety.
"The Court has found that the proposed medication is medically appropriate and that, considering less intrusive alternatives, it is essential for the defendant's own safety or the safety of others," Sullivan wrote.
The court's opinion is available on its website: www.dcd.uscourts.gov
© 1999 The Washington Post Company