Judge Approves Request to Forcibly Medicate Man to Stand Trial
A Kennebec County Superior Court judge has authorized a request to forcibly medicate a man accused of murdering his father in 2014.
Leroy Smith III of Gardiner has been found incompetent to stand trial due to a delusional disorder. Some mental health advocates are concerned this creates a "slippery slope" for those with mental illness.
For a judge to approve involuntary medication, he or she has to be convinced that a significant state interest is at stake. In his order, Justice Donald Marden says taking the life of another meets that criteria, and that it's appropriate to medicate Smith over his objections so that he can stand trial.
Pam Ames, one of Smith's attorneys, says the decision is a drastic step.
"Especially the fact if Mr. Smith continues with his reluctance to take oral medication, is that they can do intramuscular injection medication against his will, and that's very much a personal invasion of privacy," she says.
Smith did not and does not want to be medicated, says Ames. But she says she and her co-counsel do not plan to appeal the court decision.
"Delaying this further is not in his best interest," she says. "Whether it works or not may work in his best interest."
It's been more than 18 months since Smith allegedly killed his father in May 2014. He has been diagnosed with delusional disorder and held at Riverview Psychiatric Center since last January.
Ames says Smith's lack of competency has put his case at a relative standstill. She says she can't even enter a plea for Smith.
"He very well may not have been criminally responsible at the time of the alleged murder," she says. "He may not have been able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his criminal activity, but we can't even talk to him about that — about what was going on — because he is still so delusional."
This is the first time someone in a criminal case has been ordered to take medication involuntarily since a new state law was enacted last summer. But Jenna Mehnert of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Maine says she's concerned about the implications of forcing wellness on someone just to hold them accountable.
"Once that happens, their functioning at the time of trial shouldn't be the benchmark for their accountability at the time of the crime, and that's our concern," she says.
Mehnert acknowledges Smith's case is complicated. But she worries that forcing one individual with a mental illness to take medication could be a slippery slope for others.
"If we think historically about the mental health system in this country, we have done horrible things to these people in the name of trying to manage them," she says. "And this shouldn't be about managing people with mental illness. It should be about treating people with mental illness."
The state attorney general's office declined to comment on the case.
According to the court order, Smith will receive medication for six months, and the court will receive monthly updates. A conference on Smith's status is slated for April.
Ames says if his competency is not restored, the charges could be dismissed and he would go into the custody of the state.