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Forced Meds Approved After Assassin Threats

(CN) - The 5th Circuit affirmed an order to force medicate a man awaiting trial for threatening to kill the last three U.S. presidents and "all lawyers."

Jesse Joe Gutierrez first caught the attention of law enforcement in November and December 2008 when he made more than 100 phone calls to an Austin, Texas, television station, threatening to kill President George W. Bush, Gov. Rick Perry and their wives.

After Secret Service Agent Nguyen Vu paid him a visit, Gutierrez later called Vu and left him a message in which he claimed to be relaying the word of God. He threatened to kill President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, President George H.W. Bush, Vu and "all lawyers."

Gutierrez now faces charges of threatening to kill the president, a former president and a federal law enforcement officer.

A Bureau of Prisons psychologist diagnosed Guiterrez as a paranoid schizophrenic who could not understand the charges against him or help with his defense.

Deeming Gutierrez incompetent to stand trial, a federal judge committed him to federal custody for treatment based on the psychologist's report.

Two BOP psychologists evaluated Gutierrez a second time in July 2010, and found a high likelihood his competency could be restored with drugs.

They said recovery was unlikely without medication, but also noted that Gutierrez refused to take any medicine because he does not think he is mentally ill.

Gutierrez appeared before a federal judge again in December 2010 after prosecutors sought to force a medication regime.

Though the court made such an order, the 5th Circuit later found the BOP followed the wrong regulations for dealing with involuntary medication.

Forced medication cannot occur until the BOP and an independent, nontreating psychiatrist determine its necessity for a defendant to stand trial.

A BOP hearing officer subsequently concluded involuntarily medication served Gutierrez's best interest, and would likely restore his competency.

Gutierrez appealed the hearing officer's decision and reportedly said: "I don't need medicine. Your government is broken and corrupt."

The Western District of Texas reheard the issue on Jan. 4, 2012, and determined a forced regime of medication was appropriate.

In the latest appeal, the defense said there is no significant government interest in prosecuting Gutierrez since he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

This time, however, the 5th Circuit affirmed.

"Although Gutierrez's counsel argues that a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is virtually certain if Gutierrez is restored to competency and prosecution is resumed, this is not necessarily so," Judge James Graves Jr. wrote for a three-judge panel in New Orleans.

In addition to claiming insanity, Gutierrez could argue that he did not have the requisite mens rea, or guilty mind, when he made the alleged threats, the court noted. He could also plead guilty to avoid permanent commitment and angle for a shorter sentence.

Even if Gutierrez successfully pleaded not guilty by insanity, the government would still have an interest in prosecuting him, Graves wrote.

Under the Insanity Defense Reform Act, a defendant found not guilty in this way is automatically committed unless he can prove he is not a danger to others, according to the ruling.

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