Caitlin Steinke

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This article sets forth two arguments why states should be prohibited from forcibly medicating mentally ill inmates in order to achieve competency for execution. First, the state does not have an important governmental interest in executing an individual who cannot be constitutionally executed. Second, such forcible medication violates the Eighth Amendment because it is left purely to chance whether antipsychotic medication will restore a mentally ill inmate to competency.

In order to place the involuntary medication of death row inmates within the larger context of forcibly medicating mentally ill individuals, this article begins by addressing the state’s interest in forcibly medicating inmates and criminal defendants, as well as the legal standards that must be met in order to do so. It then examines the U.S. Supreme Court’s prohibition on the execution of the insane, and the competency standard that has developed as a result. This article then presents two arguments that defense counsel should make when the state wishes to forcibly medicate a mentally ill death row inmate in order to restore competency for execution.


This article grew out of a paper developed under the supervision of Professor Eric Freedman.