Forced administration of medication to restore defendant to competency to stand trial under the Sell standard

Warren v. State, 778 S.E.2d 749 (Ga. 2015)

Trial court's order “was insufficient in numerous respects” to support defendant’s forced medication for the sole purpose of restoring his competency for trial

Background: After Jesse James Warren was indicted on four counts of murder in connection with a mass shooting, he was found incompetent to stand trial and placed in the custody of the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities. The state of Georgia filed a petition under Sell to medicate Warren involuntarily in an attempt to restore his competency. The Superior Court for Cobb County granted the state’s motion and the defendant appealed.

Holdings: The Georgia Supreme Court held that, although the state had important governmental interests in restoring Warren’s competency for a timely prosecution and no special circumstances significantly undermined those interests, the factual findings were insufficient to support Warren’s involuntary medication. Important to the Georgia Supreme Court was the “absence of a specific treatment plan” that identified the drugs the State proposed to administer, in what doses and by what methods. The Court noted that “courts must consider less intrusive means for administering the drugs” (emphasis added by Georgia Supreme Court). Finally, the Court pointed to an absence of evidence in the record suggesting that the State sought to involuntarily medicate Warren for “the alternative purpose of preventing him from being a danger to himself or others.”

Found in Found in DMHL Volume 34, Issue 4