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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 22:01 GMT
US inmate faces deadly drugs cure
A death chamber in the US
Taking drugs may mean the prisoners can be executed

A United States federal appeals court has ruled that mentally ill prisoners can be forced to take drugs even if it makes them sane enough to be executed.

The US Supreme Court prohibits the execution of the mentally ill but says inmates can be forced to take anti-psychotic medication in some cases.

Pills
Judges ruled Singleton would be better off with drugs
The decision breaks new ground, allowing officials in Arkansas to force a mentally-ill prisoner to take medication so that he can subsequently be executed.

In this case, the prisoner Charles Singleton was sentenced to death 24 years ago for murder.

Some years later, his mental health began to deteriorate.

'Mentally incompetent'

His lawyers argued he was mentally incompetent and should not face the death penalty and a panel of the court had commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment.

But the appeals court, by a close margin, decided it was better to force Mr Singleton to take drugs rather than leave him without medication because it would benefit him.

One of the judges wrote they did not need to consider the ultimate result of the medication which would be Mr Singleton's execution.

Mr Singleton's lawyer said he would take the case to the Supreme Court, which has never ruled on whether prisoners may be medicated to make them sane enough to be executed.

See also:

05 Feb 03 | Americas
06 Feb 03 | Americas
05 Feb 03 | UK
16 Jan 03 | Americas
11 Jan 03 | Americas
04 Sep 01 | Americas
Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


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