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THOMAS, J., dissenting

Dennis v. Higgins, 498 U. S. 439, 443–451 (1991). This Court, however, has reversed criminal convictions only on the basis of two kinds of constitutional deprivations: those "which occu[r] during the presentation of the case” to the trier of fact, and those which cause a “structural defect affecting the framework” of the trial. Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U. S. 279, 307, 310 (1991). The Court does not reveal why it considers a deprivation of a liberty interest in avoiding unwanted medication to fall into either category of reversible error. Even if Nevada failed to make the findings necessary to support forced administration of Mellaril, this failure, without more, would not constitute a trial error or a flaw in the trial mechanism. See 107 Nev., at 185, 808 P. 2d, at 540 (Rose, J., concurring). Although Riggins might be entitled to other remedies, he has no right to have his conviction reversed.4

4 A State, however, might violate a defendant's due process right to a fundamentally fair trial if its administration of medication were to diminish substantially the defendant's mental faculties during the trial, even if he were not thereby rendered incompetent. See 3 E. Coke, Institutes *34 (1797) (“If felons come in judgement to answer, ... they shall be out of irons, and all manner of bonds, so that their pain shall not take away any manner of reason, nor them constrain to answer, but at their free will”); Resolutions of the Judges upon the Case of the Regicides, Kelyng's Report of Divers Cases in Pleas of the Crown 10 (1708) (Old Bailey 1660) (“It was resolved that when Prisoners come to the Bar to be tryed, their Irons ought to be taken off, so that they be not in any Torture while they make their defense, be their Crime never so great”), reprinted in 5 How. St. Tr. 971, 979–980 (1816); Trial of Christopher Layer, 16 How. St. Tr. 94, 100 (1812) [K. B. 1722] (“[T]he authority is that [the defendant] is not to be 'in vinculis' during his trial, but should be so far free, that he should have the use of his reason, and all advantages to clear his innocence”); see also State v. Williams, 18 Wash. 47, 49-51, 50 P. 580, 581 (1897) (“'[T]he condition of the prisoner in shackles may, to some extent, deprive him of the free and calm use of all his faculties'”) (quoting State v. Kring, 64 Mo. 591 (1877)). Riggins has not made (much less proved) any such allegation in this Court; indeed, the record indicates that Riggins' mental capacity was enhanced by his administration of Mellaril.

THOMAS, J., dissenting

We applied a similar analysis in Estelle v. Williams, 425 U. S. 501 (1976). In that case, a prisoner challenged his conviction on grounds that the State had required him to wear prison garb before the jury. In reviewing the challenge, we did not ask whether the State had violated some personal right of the defendant to select his attire. Instead, we considered only whether the prison clothing had denied him a “fair trial” by making his appearance less favorable to the jury. Id., at 503. Although we ultimately declined to reach the merits because the prisoner had waived the issue at trial, id., at 512, we observed that lower courts had held that "a showing of actual prejudice must be made by a defendant seeking to have his conviction overturned on this ground,” id., at 504, n. 1. In my view, just as the validity of the conviction in Estelle v. Williams would depend on whether the prisoner had a fair trial, so does the validity of Riggins' conviction.

The need for requiring actual unfairness in this case (either in the form of a structural defect or an error in the presentation of evidence) becomes apparent when one considers how the Court might apply its decision to other cases. A State could violate Harper by forcibly administering any kind of medication to a criminal defendant. Yet, the Court surely would not reverse a criminal conviction for a Harper violation involving medications such as penicillin or aspirin. Perhaps Mellaril, in general, has a greater likelihood of affecting a person's appearance and powers of perceptions than these substances. As noted above, however, we have no indication in this case, considering the record as a whole, that Mellaril unfairly prejudiced Riggins.

I do not mean in any way to undervalue the importance of a person's liberty interest in avoiding forced medication or to suggest that States may drug detainees at their whim. Under Harper, detainees have an interest in avoiding unwanted medication that the States must respect. In appropriate instances, detainees may seek damages or injunctions

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THOMAS, J., dissenting

against further medication in civil actions either under § 1983, as in Harper, or under state law. Yet, when this Court reviews a state-court criminal conviction of a defendant who has taken medication, it cannot undo any violation that already has occurred or punish those responsible. It may determine only whether the defendant received a proper trial, free of the kinds of reversible errors that we have recognized. Because Riggins had a full and fair trial in this case, I would affirm the Nevada Supreme Court.

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For the foregoing reasons, I find it unnecessary to address the precise standards governing the forced administration of drugs to persons such as Riggins. Whether or not Nevada violated these standards, I would affirm Riggins' conviction. I note, however, that the Court's discussion of these standards poses troubling questions. Although the Court purports to rely on Washington v. Harper, the standards that it applies in this case differ in several respects.

The Court today, for instance, appears to adopt a standard of strict scrutiny. It specifically faults the trial court for failing to find either that the "continued administration of Mellaril was required to ensure that the defendant could be tried,” ante, at 136 (emphasis added), or that “other compelling concerns outweighed Riggins' interest in freedom from unwanted antipsychotic drugs,” ibid. (emphasis added). We specifically rejected this high standard of review in Harper. In that case, the Washington Supreme Court had held that state physicians could not administer medication to a prisoner without showing that it “was both necessary and effective for furthering a compelling state interest.” 494 U. S., at 218. We reversed, holding that the state court “erred in refusing to apply the standard of reasonableness.” Id., at 223.

The Court today also departs from Harper when it says that the Nevada Supreme Court erred by not "considering

THOMAS, J., dissenting

less intrusive alternatives.” Ante, at 135. The Court presumably believes that Nevada could have treated Riggins with smaller doses of Mellaril or with other kinds of therapies. In Harper, however, we imposed no such requirement. In fact, we specifically ruled that "[t]he alternative means proffered by [the prisoner) for accommodating his interest in rejecting the forced administration of antipsychotic drugs do not demonstrate the invalidity of the State's policy.” 494 U. S., at 226.

This case differs from Harper because it involves a pretrial detainee and not a convicted prisoner. The standards for forcibly medicating inmates well may differ from those for persons awaiting trial. The Court, however, does not rely on this distinction in departing from Harper; instead, it purports to be applying Harper to detainees. Ante, at 135. Either the Court is seeking to change the Harper standards or it is adopting different standards for detainees without stating its reasons. I cannot accept either interpretation of the Court's opinion. For all of these reasons, I respectfully dissent.

Syllabus

WYATT v. COLE ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

No. 91–126. Argued January 14, 1992—Decided May 18, 1992 With the assistance of respondent Robbins, an attorney, respondent Cole

filed a complaint under the Mississippi replevin statute against his partner, petitioner Wyatt. After Cole refused to comply with a state court order to return to Wyatt property seized under the statute, Wyatt brought suit in the Federal District Court under 42 U. S. C. § 1983, challenging the state statute's constitutionality and seeking injunctive relief and damages. Among other things, the court held the statute unconstitutional and assumed that Cole was subject to liability under Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U. S. 922, in which this Court ruled that private defendants invoking state replevin, garnishment, and attachment statutes later declared unconstitutional act under color of state law for $ 1983 liability purposes. The court also intimated that, but did not decide whether, Robbins was subject to 1983 liability. However, Lugar had left open the question whether private defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from suit in such cases, see id., at 942, n. 23, and the District Court held that respondents were entitled to qualified immunity at least for conduct arising prior to the replevin statute's invalidation. The Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of qualified immunity to respondents without revisiting the question of their $ 1983

liability. Held:

1. Qualified immunity from suit, as enunciated by this Court with respect to government officials, is not available to private defendants charged with $ 1983 liability for invoking state replevin, garnishment, or attachment statutes. Immunity for private defendants was not so firmly rooted in the common law and was not supported by such strong policy reasons as to create an inference that Congress meant to incorporate it into § 1983. See, e. g., Owen v. City of Independence, 445 U. S. 622, 637. Even if there were sufficient common law support to conclude that private defendants should be entitled to a good faith and/or probable cause defense to suits for unjustified harm arising out of the misuse of governmental processes, that would still not entitle respondents to what they obtained in the courts below: the type of objectively determined, immediately appealable, qualified immunity from suit accorded government officials under, e. g., Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S.

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