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Forced medication of robbery suspect halted by court

The Oregon Supreme Court has stopped the forced medication of an armed robbery suspect from The Dalles — at least temporarily.

Cesar Valencia, 21, remains in the Oregon State Hospital until the justices either rule on a related case to set precedent for lower courts or agree to a review of the legal record on the local matter.

“Mr. Valencia will remain at the hospital and it’ll be his choice whether or not to take meds, at least until the Supreme Court acts,” said attorney David Susens, who is representing the defendant.

Susens is from the gorge firm Morris Smith Starns and Sullivan and works out of The Dalles office.

At issue is Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley’s request that Valencia be given drugs for treatment of schizophrenia — either by choice or forcibly — so prosecution can proceed.

It has been almost two years since Valencia allegedly entered the West Ninth Street dental office of Dr. Mark N. Keilman with a loaded shotgun.

He then reportedly demanded cash from the employees who were closing up shop for the day.

Law enforcement officials tracked him by footprints in the snow to his nearby house and a five-hour standoff took place before he was taken into custody.

Nisley said the three victims in the case cannot get closure until Valencia is brought to trial.

If convicted of first degree robbery, a Class A felony, he faces a minimum prison sentence of seven and a half years.

“It’s in the hands of the Supreme Court now and, hopefully, they will do the right thing,” said Nisley.

He expects the justices to defer further consideration of the matter until they have ruled on State vs. James Michael Frances Lopes, which is also an appeal of forced medication.

Oral arguments were heard on that case in early December and Nisley said the court’s decision is expected within the next month.

Lopes has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder and is accused of sexual abuse in 2012. The justices will determine in that case under what circumstances a defendant can be drugged without consent.

Nisley contends there are differences between the Lopes and Valencia cases that may merit further arguments 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 further explore the issue.

He said the U.S. Supreme Court determined in 2003 that forced medication of a suspect is allowable if the government has demonstrated a strong need.

He said that means that no other alternatives can be shown to work and the harm against the victim is serious enough to warrant forcible action.

Nisley contends the local case has met the criteria established by the nation’s highest court because the Valencia case cannot move forward without his being medicated.

He said psychiatrists have testified that the defendant has not responded well to other forms of treatment.

He said the standard practice to treat schizophrenia is medication, which will make it possible for Valencia to communicate with his or her attorney to plan and execute a defense.

Because Oregon has little case law on the issue, the Lopes ruling is expected to have far-reaching consequences. Nisley said it is difficult to imagine the state justices entering a ruling in conflict with the federal court, although they could opt to be more restrictive.

Susens said if the state prevails in Lopes, or the justices decline to take up the local case, then Valencia will likely end up being medicated.

If the court comes down on the side of Lopes, or determines that Valencia cannot be made to take medication without consent, then it will be up to Nisley to make the next move at the lower court level.

“They (justices) could make a decision on Lopes and then a separate decision on Valencia, we just don’t know at this point,” said Susens.

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