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Judge OKs Forcible Medication in Murder Case

The defendant has delayed trial in the past by refusing to take his antipsychotic drugs.

August 06, 2003|From Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A man accused of killing three people may be forcibly medicated to make him competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The case is among the first in the country under new standards set by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on when a state can forcibly medicate a defendant.

The ruling by Wyandotte County District Judge J. Dexter Burdette on Tuesday clears the way for Marc V. Sappington to stand trial on three counts of first-degree murder, possibly as early as mid-September.

Sappington, 24, is charged with killing two men and a teenage boy in April 2001. Police have testified that when he was arrested Sappington claimed he had heard voices telling him to eat flesh and drink blood.

At a hearing, psychiatrist William Logan testified that Sappington is a danger to himself and others when he does not take his antipsychotic medication. Logan said Sappington complains that the medication makes him tired, but that when he stops taking it he becomes delusional.

Based on Logan's testimony, Burdette authorized the county Sheriff's Department to force-medicate Sappington if necessary.

Sappington was to have been tried earlier this year. But in January, the judge ruled Sappington was not competent for trial and ordered him sent to a state hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Hospital staff determined in May that he was fit to stand trial, but Logan said Sappington suffered a relapse about two weeks ago and was no longer ready to go to court.

Defense attorney Patricia Aylward Kalb said her client refused medication at least 11 times in July. She said in court Monday that Sappington would take his medication voluntarily, but that wasn't enough assurance for prosecutors.

"This has happened twice as we were set to go to trial," Assistant Dist. Atty. Jerry Gorman said. "I want the order to force him to take the medicine, just in case."

Kalb said she was pleased with the judge's ruling because it established protocol for administering Sappington's drugs.

"Marc wanted to be back on the medication," Kalb said.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case, the justices ruled 6 to 3 in June that a state may involuntarily medicate a defendant to make him competent to stand trial, but several conditions must be met.

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