Monday, March 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court OK’s Forced Meds for Armed Robbery Trial

(CN) - Prison doctors did not violate the civil rights of an armed robber with paranoid schizophrenia when they medicated him so he could stand trial, the 11th Circuit ruled.

The government argued that Michael Diaz needed antipsychotic drugs so he could competently face charges over two armed robberies that he allegedly reportedly at one SouthTrust bank in Atlanta.

But Diaz said the prison doctors never explored less intrusive alternatives, arguing that the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Sell v. The United States rendered forcible medication unconstitutional.

The high court's ruling states that prosecutors could only use antipsychotic drugs sparingly.

A Georgia federal court found Diaz guilty of the armed robbery and weapons charges in 2006, but the 11th Circuit overturned the ruling, noting that Diaz had not waived his right to a jury trial.

After a federal judge sent Diaz to a medical center for evaluation, doctors concluded that he was mentally ill and would need antipsychotic medications to stand trial.

The federal appeals panel in Atlanta concurred with the federal judge's decision to let the doctors medicate Diaz, noting that the doctors tried less intrusive methods but Diaz resisted them.

"Given the ample evidence presented by the government that Diaz has, repeatedly and for a time period of over a year, refused to take medication, and that alternative treatments for Diaz would be ineffective, the district court did not clearly err in concluding that the government has shown by clear and convincing evidence that involuntary medication is necessary to render Diaz competent to stand trial," Judge Frank Hull wrote for the court on Wednesday.

Hull found that the doctors managed treatments to ensure their effectiveness, and there was no evidence of damaging side effects.

"[The chief of psychiatry at the medical center] testified about, and his report discussed, potential side effects and risks from medication based on Diaz's specific health situation, and his report proposed a detailed treatment plan that would avoid and counteract side effects with low dosages, monitoring, and supplemental medication," Hull wrote.

Diaz reportedly plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.