- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

An Alexandria, Va., judge yesterday ruled that the man accused of killing 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett last April should be medicated against his will to make him mentally competent to stand trial.
Alexandria Circuit judge Alfred Swersky ruled that Gregory Devon Murphy, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, must receive antipsychotic drugs to make him able to help in his defense.
Judge Swersky also allowed doctors to perform a spinal tap on Murphy if they deem it necessary to help improve his mental condition.
"I feel like I've been the surrogate decision maker here and that I've gone beyond what hospitals and other medical facilities would do in a case like this," Judge Swersky said. "I believe forcibly medicating Mr. Murphy is medically appropriate."
The judge said he would monitor any possible side effects in 30 days to prevent any medication from interfering with Murphy's right to a fair trial.
Murphy, 30, was diagnosed with the mental condition late last fall and has been undergoing psychiatric treatment at Liberty Forensic Unit at Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell, Va., for the last four months. The treatment did not include any medication.
Murphy's attorneys, who repeatedly have argued against forcibly medicating their client, said last night they were considering filing in federal court a temporary restraining order against the state. The order would block the state from medicating Murphy.
Under state law, Murphy's attorneys cannot appeal the judge's decision.
Joseph Bowman, one of Murphy's attorneys, asked the judge to consider ordering "less intrusive" measures before medicating Murphy. Less intrusive measures would include a spinal tap or a brain scan.
The defense attorneys also argued that antipsychotic drugs are inappropriate because state doctors had not ruled out the possibility that Murphy's psychosis is caused by syphilis.
"Mr. Murphy would be treated to the possible detriment of his Sixth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights," Mr. Bowman argued.
Judge Swersky denied his request.
Joseph McCarthy, Murphy's other attorney, asked Judge Swersky to issue a stay until the federal court decides whether it will intervene in the case. The judge denied that request as well.
It could not be determined last night whether Murphy's attorneys filed such a request in nearby federal court.
Judge Swersky issued the ruling after hearing testimony from several doctors and psychiatrists, including Murphy's psychologist, who told the judge that Murphy should be medicated to keep his condition from deteriorating.
Dr. Dafferlin Barnard-Dupree testified that Murphy denies he is mentally ill and has declined to take medication that would help alleviate his symptoms, and possibly return him to competency.
"Alternative forms of therapy that we provide have not been successful," Dr. Barnard-Dupree testified. "Without medication, he will not get better. His mental illness will not get better."
Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel argued that Murphy must be medicated because he is a danger to others and because the state has a compelling interest in seeing him brought to trial for Kevin's murder.
"The issue is whether or not a defendant can simply avoid being put to trial by refusing to cooperate with medically appropriate treatment," Mr. Sengel said.
However, Murphy's attorneys argued that their client's delusions may stem from syphilis and that treating the disease with antibiotics first could help control his mental illness.
Murphy, who was diagnosed with syphilis in 1993, now will be transferred to Central State Hospital in Petersburg, where he will continue his treatment.
Judge Swersky's ruling comes almost a month after a U.S. District Court judge ordered that Russell Eugene Weston Jr., a diagnosed schizophrenic, be forcibly medicated so he can stand trial for the 1998 killings of two U.S. Capitol Police officers.
Weston also will receive antipsychotic drugs to make him able to help in his defense.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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