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  August 20, 2002

CCLE Files Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court

Today, the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) filed an amicus curiae brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a St. Louis dentist.  Dr. Charles Sell  is appealing to the Court to stay a lower court’s decision to have him forcibly drugged in order to stand trial. In May, the Eighth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Dr. Sell could be injected with psychotropic drugs in order to make him “mentally competent” to stand trial for insurance fraud.

CCLE counsel and author of the amicus brief Richard Glen Boire sees this case as a freedom of thought issue, one that the Supreme Court has previously located within the First Amendment. “If government agents, with the concurrence of the courts, can constitutionally order the forcible manipulation of Dr. Sell’s mind in order that he may stand trial,” states the brief, “then any accused defendant…is also at jeopardy of losing his or her First Amendment right to freedom of thought.”

The Eighth Circuit Court’s earlier decision, which critics have called “shocking and inhumane,” ruled that Dr. Sell’s bodily integrity was less important than the state’s interest in bringing him to trial. The CCLE, however, argues in the brief that the lower court mischaracterized the personal liberty right at stake in this case.  "When the government invades a person's body in order to manipulate the mind," says Mr. Boire, "both bodily integrity and freedom of thought are at stake." This combined liberty interest is what the CCLE terms "cognitive liberty."

Ironically, the government's insistence that Dr. Sell can be forcibly administered mind-altering drugs, is diametrically opposed to its "just say no" policy with respect to other mind-altering drugs. 

"On the one hand the government is bent on creating a "Drug Free America," while on the other hand it forces a citizen to take mind-altering drugs despite his repeated objection," said Mr. Boire. "The only thing consistent here is the government's astonishingly arrogant assertion that it has the power to determine which mind states and types of thinking are allowed and which it can prohibit or coerce." 

Dr. Sell has been incarcerated for over four years, without trial, at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. If Dr. Sell had been found guilty, his sentence would be no more than 41 months – a year shorter than the time he has already spent in custody.

Read the CCLE's amicus brief to the Supreme Court. (pdf) 

Review further materials concerning the Dr. Sell case

See Also:

CCLE "Mental Health & Cognitive Liberty  

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