New opinion — applying plain error to affirm forcibly medicating a schizophrenic defendant to make him competent to be sentenced

Abraham Cruz was convicted of threatening a federal law enforcement officer. After trial but before sentencing, the district court ordered a competency evaluation at the prosecution’s request, and he was found incompetent due to schizophrenia. It is unclear whether his mental illness was ever raised at trial to challenge competency or support a defense. Like many persons with schizophrenia, Cruz refused anti-psychotic medication. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court ordered Cruz forcibly medicated so that he could be sentenced. Even though Cruz, through counsel, had not opposed the forcible-medication motion and presented no evidence or argument at the hearing, he appealed, apparently still represented by the same office. Reviewing for plain error only, CA3 affirmed.

The case is United States v. Cruz. Opinion by Cowen, joined by Fisher and Tashima CA9 by designation.

Judging from the opinion, this case is disturbing. I hope Cruz at least gets counsel to represent him for a 2255 motion.