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Opinion of the Court

JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner David Riggins challenges his murder and robbery convictions on the ground that the State of Nevada unconstitutionally forced an antipsychotic drug upon him during trial. Because the Nevada courts failed to make findings sufficient to support forced administration of the drug, we



During the early hours of November 20, 1987, Paul Wade was found dead in his Las Vegas apartment. An autopsy revealed that Wade died from multiple stab wounds, including wounds to the head, chest, and back. David Riggins was arrested for the killing 45 hours later.

A few days after being taken into custody, Riggins told Dr. R. Edward Quass, a private psychiatrist who treated patients at the Clark County Jail, about hearing voices in his head and having trouble sleeping. Riggins informed Dr. Quass that he had been successfully treated with Mellaril in the past. Mellaril is the trade name for thioridazine, an antipsychotic drug. After this consultation, Dr. Quass prescribed Mellaril at a level of 100 milligrams per day. Because Riggins continued to complain of voices and sleep problems in the following months, Dr. Quass gradually increased the Mellaril prescription to 800 milligrams per day. Riggins also received a prescription for Dilantin, an antiepileptic drug.

In January 1988, Riggins successfully moved for a determination of his competence to stand trial. App. 6. Three

Defense Lawyers by David M. Eldridge; and for Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice by Kevin M. Kelly.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the State of Louisiana et al. by William J. Guste, Jr., Attorney General of Louisiana, and M. Patricia Jones and Kathleen E. Petersen, Assistant Attorneys General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Charles M. Oberly III of Delaware and Michael E. Carpenter of Maine; and for the American Psychiatric Association by Richard G. Taranto and Joel I. Klein.

Opinion of the Court

court-appointed psychiatrists performed examinations during February and March, while Riggins was taking 450 milligrams of Mellaril daily. Dr. William O'Gorman, a psychiatrist who had treated Riggins for anxiety in 1982, and Dr. Franklin Master concluded that Riggins was competent to stand trial. The third psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Jurasky, found that Riggins was incompetent. The Clark County District Court determined that Riggins was legally sane and competent to stand trial, id., at 13, so preparations for trial went forward.

In early June, the defense moved the District Court for an order suspending administration of Mellaril and Dilantin until the end of Riggins' trial. Id., at 20. Relying on both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Nevada Constitution, Riggins argued that continued administration of these drugs infringed upon his freedom and that the drugs' effect on his demeanor and mental state during trial would deny him due process. Riggins also asserted that, because he would offer an insanity defense at trial, he had a right to show jurors his “true mental state.Id., at 22. In response, the State noted that Nevada law prohibits the trial of incompetent persons, see Nev. Rev. Stat. § 178.400 (1989), and argued that the court therefore had authority to compel Riggins to take medication necessary to ensure his competence. App. 31-32.

On July 14, 1988, the District Court held an evidentiary hearing on Riggins' motion. At the hearing, Dr. Master "guess[ed]” that taking Riggins off medication would not noticeably alter his behavior or render him incompetent to stand trial. Record 412. Dr. Quass testified that, in his opinion, Riggins would be competent to stand trial even without the administration of Mellaril, but that the effects of Mellaril would not be noticeable to jurors if medication continued. Id., at 443–445. Finally, Dr. O'Gorman told the court that Mellaril made the defendant calmer and more re

Opinion of the Court

laxed but that an excessive dose would cause drowsiness. Id., at 464-466. Dr. O'Gorman was unable to predict how Riggins might behave if taken off antipsychotic medication, yet he questioned the need to give Riggins the high dose he was receiving. Id., at 474–476. The court also had before it a written report in which Dr. Jurasky held to his earlier view that Riggins was incompetent to stand trial and predicted that if taken off Mellaril the defendant "would most likely regress to a manifest psychosis and become extremely difficult to manage.” App. 19.

The District Court denied Riggins' motion to terminate medication with a one-page order that gave no indication of the court's rationale. Id., at 49. Riggins continued to receive 800 milligrams of Mellaril each day through the completion of his trial the following November.

At trial, Riggins presented an insanity defense and testified on his own behalf. He indicated that on the night of Wade's death he used cocaine before going to Wade's apartment. Riggins admitted fighting with Wade, but claimed that Wade was trying to kill him and that voices in his head said that killing Wade would be justifiable homicide. A jury found Riggins guilty of murder with use of a deadly weapon and robbery with use of a deadly weapon. After a penalty hearing, the same jury set the murder sentence at death.

Riggins presented several claims to the Nevada Supreme Court, among them that forced administration of Mellaril denied him the ability to assist in his own defense and prejudicially affected his attitude, appearance, and demeanor at trial. This prejudice was not justified, Riggins said in his opening brief, because the State neither demonstrated a need to administer Mellaril nor explored alternatives to giving him 800 milligrams of the drug each day. Record 1020. Riggins amplified this claim in his reply brief, objecting that the State intruded upon his constitutionally protected lib

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Opinion of the Court

erty interest in freedom from antipsychotic drugs without considering less intrusive options. Riggins argued:

“In United States v. Bryant, 670 F. Supp. 840, 843 (Minn. 1987)[,] the court, in reference to medicating prisoners against their will, stated that 'courts have recognized a protectable liberty interest ... in the freedom to avoid unwanted medication with such drugs.' The court in so stating cited Bee v. Greaves, 744 F. 2d 1387 (10th Cir. 1984)[,] which addressed the issue of medicating pre-trial detainees and stated that 'less restrictive alternatives, such as segregation or the use of less controversial drugs like tranquilizers or sedatives, should be ruled out before resorting to antipsychotic drugs.' In the case at bar, no less restrictive alternatives were utilized, considered or even proposed.” Record 1070

1071 (emphasis in original). The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed Riggins' convictions and death sentence. 107 Nev. 178, 808 P. 2d 535 (1991). With respect to administration of Mellaril, the court held that expert testimony presented at trial "was sufficient to inform the jury of the effect of the Mellaril on Riggins' demeanor and testimony.” Id., at 181, 808 P. 2d, at 538. Thus, although Riggins' demeanor was relevant to his insanity defense, the court held that denial of the defense's motion to terminate medication was neither an abuse of discretion nor a violation of Riggins' trial rights. In a concurring opinion, Justice Rose suggested that the District Court should have determined whether administration of Mellaril during trial was "absolutely necessary" by ordering a pretrial suspension of medication. Id., at 185, 808 P. 2d, at 540 (concurring opinion). Justice Springer dissented, arguing that antipsychotic drugs may never be forced on a criminal defendant solely to allow prosecution. Id., at 186, 808 P. 2d, at 541.

We granted certiorari, 502 U.S. 807 (1991), to decide whether forced administration of antipsychotic medication

Opinion of the Court

during trial violated rights guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.


The record in this case narrowly defines the issues before us. The parties have indicated that once the District Court denied Riggins' motion to terminate use of Mellaril, subsequent administration of the drug was involuntary. See, e. g., Brief for Petitioner 6 (medication was “forced”); Brief for Respondent 14, 22, 28 (describing medication as “unwanted,” “over objection,” and “compelled"). This understanding accords with the determination of the Nevada Supreme Court. See 107 Nev., at 181; 808 P. 2d, at 537 (describing medication as “involuntary” and “forced”). Given the parties' positions on this point and the absence of any record evidence to the contrary, we adhere to the understanding of the State Su

preme Court.

We also presume that administration of Mellaril was medically appropriate. Although defense counsel stressed that Riggins received a very high dose of the drug, at no point did he suggest to the Nevada courts that administration of Mellaril was medically improper treatment for his client.

Finally, the record is dispositive with respect to Riggins' Eighth Amendment claim that administration of Mellaril denied him an opportunity to show jurors his true mental condition at the sentencing hearing. Because this argument was presented neither to the Nevada Supreme Court nor in Riggins' petition for certiorari, we do not address it here.

With these considerations in mind, we turn to Riggins' core contention that involuntary administration of Mellaril denied him "a full and fair trial.” Pet. for Cert. i. Our discussion in Washington v. Harper, 494 U. S. 210 (1990), provides useful background for evaluating this claim. In Harper, a prison inmate alleged that the State of Washington and various individuals violated his right to due process by giving him Mellaril and other antipsychotic drugs against his will. Although the inmate did not prevail, we agreed that

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