Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Surprise, surprise, the most horrible example of prosecutorial misconduct comes from the fair city of Chicago. William Heirens, then a bright high school student, and since the first prisoner in Illinois to get a college degree behind bars, was charged with triple murder in 1946. He was injected with sodium pentothal, and, WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE PENTOTHAL made a “confession” that eventually led to his conviction. There were “inconsistencies” in the physical evidence presented, and prosecutors admitted that they would have had a hard time convicting him without the “confessions.” Though another man had already confessed to the murders, Heirens is still in prison, now 78 years old.

For those of you who haven’t seen someone injected with sodium pentothal, let me try to explain the problem here. Sodium pentothal, aka “truth serum” makes people tell the truth only in the comic book world. Here in the real world, it does NOT make people tell the truth. In low doses, sodium pentothal can make people babble incoherently, and frequently repeat whatever they are told (an event called "echolalia"). Imagine being bone-tired, drunk, and stoned, all at once. What someone says under the influence of sodium pentothal has as much relation to the truth as what you would expect to come out of the mouth of someone who’s been awake for 48 hours, just finished with a fifth of scotch, and on his tenth doobie.

To convict someone on the basis of a “confession” extracted under sodium pentothal is something that I would have associated with the Spanish inquisition, or the Salem witch courts, had they known about barbiturates back then. Even though I grew up in Chicago, it still surprises me that the Chicago PD and district attorney was, and continues to be, so depraved.

Oh no. This sort of thing is still going on. I don't know what drugs Charles Thomas Sell is going to be put on, but whatever drug it is an "antipsychotic" in just about the same way sodium penothal is a "truth serum." Another name for most classes of antipsychotic drugs is "major depressants." These drugs basically slow you down. Yes, some people function better when they are slowed down, but to pretend that injecting criminial defendants with these drugs won't have an effect on their ability to defend themselves .... well, history will be the judge, I suppose.

UPDATE 2: It's worse. Dr. Sell isn't being medicated because he's a danger to self or others, but because he's "delusional." The court below held that Dr. Sell was “delusional” because he:
(i) thought there was a government plot to cover up illegal behavior by corrupt individuals to spread HIV worldwide;
(ii) thought there was a government effort to cover up defendant’s knowledge of the government’s culpability in the Waco deaths, where defendant was summoned to serve at that time as an Army Reservist; and
(iii) thought he should go to Bosnia, and that if he was prevented from going there then somebody wanted a lot of American boys dead.

So, he's being medicated because he doesn't trust the government.

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