Wasco County Circuit Judge Janet Stauffer has ruled against stopping the forcible medication of an inmate at the regional jail until the Oregon Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue.
Cesar Valencia, 21, who has been accused of armed robbery, was transported Dec. 30 from the regional jail to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem. He will now be given drugs for the treatment of schizophrenia, according to District Attorney Eric Nisley.
The suspect, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, will first be offered 600 milligrams of Clozaril, the drug recommended by physicians for treatment of schizophrenia because it has the lowest potential for side effects.
If Valencia refuses to take that drug, he will be forcibly medicated with either Abilify or Geodon and then subjected to an evaluation of his mental state over a period of several months.
“Hopefully, he’ll take the oral medication and not have to be given injections,” said Nisley.
Defense attorney David Susens is hoping the state’s highest court will step in and stop unwanted medication of his client, at least until the issue can be further explored. Susens has taken over representation of Valencia from Rob Raschio, who has relocated to Grant County.
The local attorney is working with Laura Graser, a Portland lawyer, on a request that justices execute a Writ of Mandamus to halt medication.
Graser practices out of Portland and specializes in complex litigation and appeals and was chosen because of that experience to represent Valencia if the justices agree to hear arguments in the case.
Susens said the writ is rarely used because it must be demonstrated that there is no other remedy available and that someone is suffering an injustice as the result of a lower court action.
He believes the Valencia’s qualifies because his personal liberty is being violated by forcible medication.
“A writ can only be used for a narrow set of circumstances and is rarely sought, rarely heard and rarely granted,” he said. “It’s a special remedy and we feel there are extenuating circumstances in this case for it to be used.”
He said because there is a lack of case law involving forced medication in Oregon, and the justices have a ruling pending on a similar case, there is a possibility they will also intervene in Valencia’s situation.
In early December, the high court heard oral arguments on an appeal of forcible medication ordered by a Multnomah County judge for James Michael Frances Lopes.
He has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder and is accused of sexual abuse in 2012. The justices will determine in the Lopes case under what circumstances a defendant can be drugged without consent.
Nisley said there are differences between the Lopes and Valencia cases that may merit further argument if the justices rule against the state. If that happens, a prosecutor from the attorney general’s office will represent Wasco County in another hearing, if the court agrees to consider the local case.
Susens said, if the state prevails in Lopes, or the justices decline to grant the writ, then Valencia will likely be medicated.
If the justices grant the writ, he said it will be up to Nisley to make the next move at the lower court level.
Valencia will be monitored by psychiatrists, if medicated, to determine if he is better able to assist in his own defense for the alleged crime that occurred almost two years ago. In order to be brought to trial, he has to be able to communicate with Susens, understand the nature of the proceedings and the potential consequences of being found guilty.
Under Measure 11 mandatory sentencing guidelines, Valencia faces a minimum sentence of seven and a half years in prison.
He was arrested Jan. 18, 2012, after police followed footprints in the snow from the dental office of Dr. Mark N. Keilman to his home. A five-hour standoff took place with law enforcement officials before Valencia was taken into custody.
He had reportedly brought a loaded shotgun into the office at 421 W. Ninth St. and demanded cash from the employees who were closing up for the day.
Valencia has spent the majority of time since his arrest at the state hospital being evaluated. He was moved to the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities when arguments over the medication issue began this fall.
Nisley initiated the court hearings to get the case moving forward on behalf of the three robbery victims. The district attorney is using a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2003 as the basis of his request to have Valencia medicated against his will. He believes the case meets the criteria for drugging a defendant without permission.
Nisley contends the victims have been waiting almost two years for justice to be served. And there is no other way for court proceedings to get under way because psychiatrists have testified that Valencia has not responded well to other forms of treatment.