Inmate suing over forced meds won't enter court; case tossed

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2017 12:39 PM
Inmate suing over forced meds won't enter court; case tossed

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An inmate suing prison medical staff for forcibly medicating him with psychotropic drugs refused to enter a courtroom on the first day of trial Thursday, prompting a judge to dismiss the case.

Kacey Lewis told U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant that officials confiscated his notes and documents and he couldn't proceed without them. He also said he wasn't allowed to shower or brush his teeth before court. He did not name the officials.

In a courtroom, Bryant played a recording of a conversation she had with Lewis earlier Thursday in another room in the federal courthouse in Hartford. She said she had to dismiss the case because Lewis, who was representing himself, refused to participate in the trial.

"All my papers were confiscated," Lewis said. "I haven't had a shower since the last time I saw you. I'm not going before the court smelling like whatever."

Officials with the state attorney general's office, which is defending prison medical staff, expect Lewis to appeal the dismissal or ask Bryant to reopen the case. Assistant Attorney General Terrence O'Neill declined to comment on the dismissal.

Department of Correction spokesman Andrius Banevicius said prison officials did not confiscate Lewis' paperwork and did offer him a chance to shower and brush his teeth Thursday morning before court.

The 48-year-old Lewis has been imprisoned since 2009 on a 15-year sentence for assaulting and kidnapping his girlfriend in Waterbury.

He was taken from his cell, shackled and subdued with pepper spray for some of the 42 injections he received from the medical staff at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, according to court records. He says prison staff violated his constitutional rights, which state officials deny.

Bryant previously found the prison staff violated Lewis' rights to due process and ordered the civil trial to determine whether he is entitled to financial damages or other relief. A jury also would consider whether medical staff violated Lewis' rights against cruel and unusual punishment by being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and through the suffering caused by the injections.

Lewis was diagnosed with psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia by a prison psychiatrist, Gerard Gagne, and a prison psychologist, Mark Frayne, while incarcerated at the Northern prison from July 2010 to November 2011, according to court documents.

Gagne and Frayne requested that Lewis be involuntarily medicated because he was becoming increasingly unstable, paranoid, hostile and aggressive, court documents say.

A panel that included Frayne, another psychiatrist and a nurse reviewed the involuntary medication request and met with Lewis in 2011. It authorized Gagne to involuntarily medicate Lewis.

In a letter to The Associated Press, Lewis insisted that he is not mentally ill and that the doctors "used false information and a bogus diagnosis to rationalize and justify" forcing him to be medicated.

An advocate was appointed to represent Lewis' interests before the panel. But the advocate was Frayne, who also presided over and denied Lewis' appeal of the panel's decision.

Bryant ruled that was a conflict of interest that denied Lewis his 14th Amendment right to due process.