"I want to go to trial on Monday; I've been locked up for nearly eight years," declared Charles Thomas Sell. "The federal court has no evidence, they have no witnesses. I want my trial one week from today. I am not incompetent in any way, shape or form."
His statements rang true to bystanders attending his hearing on Nov. 22 in the federal courthouse in St. Louis. Whatever happened to the right of an accused to have a speedy trial?
Once a successful dentist in St. Louis County who treated many indigent patients, Sell was accused of Medicaid fraud in 1997. Although he has never hurt anyone, and a federal court held that he poses no danger to those around him, prison officials frequently placed him in solitary confinement for periods that totaled nearly two years.
Prison officials tried to drug Sell, allegedly to make him fit for trial, and lower courts ruled in favor of mandatory drugging of this non-convicted, non-dangerous, nonviolent prisoner. The federal government fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for the power to forcibly drug Sell and, even though it lost its case there, the government continued to imprison and prevent him from receiving proper medical care.
The forced medication was designed to correct Sell's attitude toward the government. Sell seemed to think the government was out to get him, and the government wanted to drug him to get him to change his mind.
Is this occurring in the United States of America?
Psychiatrists were frequently employed by the Soviet Union to cover up atrocities and silence critics, but U.S. veterans who fought against the Communists in Korea and Vietnam never expected such tactics to be used by their own government.
Earlier this year, a government psychologist declared Sell mentally fit for trial. Apparently, that medical opinion was unsatisfactory to Sell's persecutors, and to everyone's surprise that government psychologist reversed his diagnosis without re-examining him, and declared Sell unfit for trial.
An independent psychiatrist then confirmed Sell's own view that he was fit for trial, and the court agreed and scheduled a trial for Nov. 29. But on Nov. 22, lawyers insisted Sell was not ready for trial and persuaded a judge to cancel it.
The lawyers argued that Sell is not competent to stand trial because he insists on talking about the abuse he has suffered in prison, abuse that could be proved by prison videos the government is keeping secret. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons filed a motion for the court to release these tapes, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also intervened to demand their public release.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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