Supreme Court: drugs can be forced on defendant

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The state Supreme Court ruled on Friday that possession of more than 8 pounds of marijuana is a serious enough charge to warrant forcing medication on a defendant so he is competent to stand trial.

The high court's 7-0 ruling came in the case of 30-year-old Christopher Seekins of Torrington, who authorities say has been ruled incompetent to stand trial because he refuses to take psychotropic medication for bipolar disorder. Justices upheld a lower court judge's order to medicate Seekins against his will.

State law says a defendant can be involuntarily medicated if the crime is serious enough and there is an overriding law enforcement interest in determining whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. Seekins argued that possessing marijuana isn't a serious crime.

Seekins' lawyer, Richard Marquette, declined to comment on the ruling Friday through an employee at his Hamden law firm.

Seekins also made headlines in 2005 when he painted large pictures of marijuana leaves on his Winsted home with the word "hemp" beneath them after being charged with growing marijuana, saying it was in support of legalizing the drug. He later agreed in a plea bargain to remove or cover up the paintings, which caused a ruckus in town because they were visible from busy Main Street.

Justice Richard Palmer, a former prosecutor, wrote in the Supreme Court's ruling that the basis for determining whether a crime is serious is the severity of the sentence it potentially carries. Palmer noted that Seekins faces a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison if convicted of just three of the many charges he faces.

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