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United States v. Osborn

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

April 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
JOAN OSBORN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Utah (D.C. No. 2:15-CR-00107-WPJ-1)

          Amy B. Cleary, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Rene L. Valladares, Federal Public Defender, and Cristen C. Thayer, Assistant Federal Public Defender, with her on the briefs), Office of the Federal Public Defender, Las Vegas, Nevada, for Defendant-Appellant.

          Syrena C. Hargrove, Assistant United States Attorney (Bart M. Davis, United States Attorney, with her on the brief), United States Attorney's Office, District of Idaho, Boise, Idaho, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before HOLMES, BALDOCK, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.

          CARSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         In Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166, 169, 180-81 (2003), the Supreme Court outlined a demanding four-part test that, if satisfied, allows the government to forcibly medicate a mentally ill but nonviolent criminal defendant "to render that defendant competent to stand trial." That test is as follows:

First, a court must find that important governmental interests are at stake. . . .
. . . .
Second, the court must conclude that involuntary medication will significantly further those concomitant state interests. . . .
Third, the court must conclude that involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests. . . .
Fourth, . . . the court must conclude that administration of the drugs is medically appropriate, i.e., in the patient's best medical interest in light of his medical condition.

Sell, 539 U.S. at 180-81 (emphases in original).

         But the Supreme Court cautioned that lower courts "need not consider whether to allow forced medication for that kind of purpose, if forced medication is warranted for a different purpose." Id. at 181-82 (emphasis in original). Specifically, courts "ordinarily" must first consider whether forced medication is in the defendant's medical interest because it safeguards him from himself or others, a circumstance which the Supreme Court previously addressed in Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 227 (1990). Sell, 539 U.S. at 183. The Supreme Court reasoned that the Harper standard is "usually more 'objective and manageable' than the inquiry into whether medication is permissible to render a defendant competent," so addressing it first can potentially eliminate-or, at the very least, better inform-a Sell inquiry. Id. at 182- 83 (quoting Riggins v. Nevada, 504 U.S. 127, 140 (1992) (Kennedy, J., concurring)).

         But what happens when changed circumstances necessitate that a defendant be forcibly medicated under Harper after the district court has already authorized forced medication under Sell? Does the Sell order stand, or should the court vacate the Sell order and start again on a clean slate? For the reasons we describe in more detail below, we hold that courts generally should vacate the Sell order and begin anew armed with the findings of the intervening Harper proceedings.

         I.

         Defendant Joan Osborn is one of the many individuals worldwide who must wake up each day and battle a severe and debilitating mental illness. A sixty-one-year-old woman, she has been diagnosed at different times with schizophrenia, possible depression, and possible post-traumatic stress disorder. She has thus spent a large portion of her life-on and off since 1982-in hospitals and mental health facilities for treatment. Most of her stays were not voluntary. ...


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