United States v. Gillenwater

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 04-11-2014
  • Case #: 12-30379
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Associate Justice O’Connor for the Court; Circuit Judges Tallman and Bea
  • Full Text Opinion

To authorize an order for involuntary medication to attain competency of a defendant, the court must find clear and convincing evidence that there is (1) an important governmental interest; (2) involuntary medication will significantly further that interest; (3) involuntary medication is necessary; and (4) the administration is medically appropriate.

Defendant Charles Lee Gillenwater, II, was charged with three counts of transmitting threatening communications by United States mail. Gillenwater believed he and other workers were exposed to asbestos during the renovation of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, and that the government and hotel officials were conspiring to cover the exposure up. Gillenwater believed the government and hotel officials were targeting him when he attempted to expose the issue through threatening emails. The district court ordered a competency evaluation, and Gillenwater was diagnosed with “delusional disorder, persecutory type.” The evaluating doctor concluded that “the disorder could substantially impair Gillenwater’s ability to assist his attorney with his defense.” The district court found Gillenwater incompetent to stand trial, and remanded him to federal custody. After three evidentiary hearings, the district court authorized an order for involuntary medication for Gillenwatter to attain competency. Gillenwater appealed, and the district court again found Gillenwater incompetent to stand trial and authorized involuntary medication. The Ninth Circuit applied the four factors within Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003) to determine whether the order for involuntary medication was valid through clear and convincing evidence. The four Sell factors are: “(1) ‘ important governmental interest are at stake’; (2) ‘involuntary medication will significantly further’ those interests; (3) ‘involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests’; and (4) ‘administration of the drugs is medically appropriate.’” The panel held that the district court did not err when authorizing the involuntary medication order because prosecuting an individual charged with crimes representing an intent to harm others is an important interest of the government, and involuntary medication is necessary to further those efforts given Gillenwater’s mental condition. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court’s first involuntary medication order, and dismissed as moot the appeal of the second order. AFFIRMED.

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