Superior Court judge allows jail inmate to be involuntarily medicated

A judge in Island County Superior Court last week approved the prosecution’s request to allow doctors to involuntarily medicate a jail inmate for psychiatric symptoms.

Lifelong Coupeville resident Stuart E. Williams, 24, is known by many in Central Whidbey. He’s often seen walking on the side of Highways 20 and 525 in the area.

Williams was arrested in April after allegedly stealing potato chips, meat snacks and an energy drink from the Greenbank Store and a child’s purple bicycle from a Greenbank home, according to court records.

He was charged with burglary in the second degree, criminal trespass and theft.

Based on his behavior in the jail and elsewhere, a judge ordered that a mental health expert evaluate Williams to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. In the resulting report, the psychologist noted Williams’ extensive history of mental health issues, which included two involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations. The psychologist wrote that Williams was acutely psychotic during an evaluation but had limited insight into his mental illness. The psychologist found that Williams met the criteria for schizophrenia.

The judge ordered that Williams be sent to a treatment facility for competency restoration, but he refused medication. A doctor practicing “tele-psychiatry” with the Yakima Competency Restoration Center asked that the court allow personnel to medicate him over his objection.

In court last week, Chief Criminal Deputy Eric Ohme outlined how involuntarily medicating Williams would conform to state law. Appearing via speakerphone, Dr. Sandra Kalnins explained that Williams would be medicated with two anti-psychotic drugs that are available in injectable forms.

Williams’ attorney, Morgan Gierhart, argued that the drugs could make his client drowsy or have other effects that would make him unable to understand and participate at trial. She also pointed out that the side effects include reaction that could be fatal; Kalnins said such side effects are extremely rare.

Williams laughed during much of the proceedings and spoke in an odd voice.

In the end, Judge Vickie Churchill approved the request for involuntary medication.

Williams was sent to the facility for a 45-day treatment period, which can be extended if necessary.

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