A shooting on capitol hill: "The Ruby satellite system," mental illness, and failure of the american legal system

Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 11 (4):391-400 (2001)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 11.4 (2001) 391-400 [Access article in PDF] Bioethics Inside the Beltway A Shooting on Capitol Hill: "The Ruby Satellite System," Mental Illness, and Failure of the American Legal System Peter J. Cohen On 24 July 1998, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., stormed the United States Capitol, forced his way through a security checkpoint, bypassed a metal detector, and entered the office complex of Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX), the House Majority Whip (Weil 1998). During this period of terror, he shot and killed two officers of the Capitol Police and seriously wounded another as they attempted to end his foray. 1 Weston was severely wounded by several Capital police officers and taken into custody. After being treated for his injuries, he was incarcerated in the District of Columbia. 2On 5 May 1999, Weston was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institute in Butner, North Carolina (United States v. Weston, 69 F. Supp. 2d 99 (D.D.C. 1999), 103), where he remains to this day. He has neither been brought to trial nor received appropriate psychiatric therapy, but continues to be warehoused "in solitary confinement under constant observation... in a psychotic state (United States v. Weston, 255 F.3d 873; LEXIS 16851 (U.S. App. 2001b), 3-4 [LEXIS]). I will briefly detail the legal events responsible for this mad situation and suggest alternative actions that should have been taken at the very onset of the case. Early Chronology Although overtly the crime appeared to be senseless and without any conceivable motivation, Weston believed that his acts were justified and necessary. The story he told to the court-appointed forensic psychiatrist, Sally C. Johnson, M.D., 3 was that while working for NASA in the early 1980s, he had developed a "Ruby Satellite System," a powerful machine that could reverse time. With access to this system, nothing was permanent--the user could simply reverse time and exit from the current scene. However, the "System" was now controlled by cannibals who were developing and spreading "Black Heva," the deadliest disease known to [End Page 391] humankind, similar to HIV or the plague. It resulted from human corpses rotting and turning black. Time was running out, and Weston believed he had to return to override the "Ruby Satellite System" in the Capitol so that he could stem the spread of "Black Heva" and prevent world calamity. He believed that if he were tried, convicted, and even executed, he could simply time reverse himself, place himself in a safe within the Capitol, and subsequently resume his life at whatever point he chose (United States v. Weston, 206 F.3d 9 (D.C. Cir. 2000), 19-20).On 22 April 1999, the district court accepted Dr. Johnson's diagnosis that Weston suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, the symptoms of which were so severe that he would be incapable of understanding the proceedings against him and of assisting in his own defense. On this basis, the court had no difficulty in finding him incompetent to stand trial (U.S. v. Weston 1999, 102).At Weston's initial hearing, Dr. Johnson had testified that medication would be efficacious in treating Weston's delusions: [T]he standard of care in someone suffering from this type of symptom picture would be to treat them with medication.... [T]here is a good likelihood that he'll have a positive response, positive in the sense that his symptoms will diminish in response to treatment.... The potential benefits to treating the defendant far outweigh the risks.... (U.S. v. Weston 1999, 108) The defense presented no expert testimony refuting Dr. Johnson's presentation. The district court then ordered that Weston begin receiving medication in order to render him nondangerous and competent for trial (U.S. v. Weston 1999, 108-9). The Problem Weston refused to be medicated! 4 He has continued to claim that the administration of antipsychotic drugs against his will would violate his Fifth Amendment due process liberty interest in avoiding unwanted bodily intrusion and implicated...



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