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in a 6-3 decision, the justices vacated and remanded a ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that held that a prisoner awaiting trial can be forced to take anti-psychotic medication so as to make him competent for trial. Sell v. U.S., No. 02-5664 Forcible medication for trial competency purposes is constitutional only “if the treatment is medically appropriate, is substantially unlikely to have side effects that may undermine the trial’s fairness, and, taking account of less intrusive alternatives, is necessary signi- ficantly to further important governmental trial-related interests,” the court said. While the government has an interest in timely prosecution, it also has a concomitant interest in assuring a defendant a fair trial. It is up to the courts to decide if medication is likely to render a defendant competent to stand trial and will not produce side effects that will interfere with a defendant’s ability to conduct his defense. Breyer delivered the opinion of the court, in which Rehnquist, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter and Ginsburg joined. Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which O’Connor and Thomas joined.

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