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The Champion

March 2019 , Page 16 

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The Value of a Guardian Ad Litem in a Sell Proceeding

By Fredrick E. Vars

An alarming number of criminal defendants have mental health problems.1 Some studies have shown that more than half of all prison and jail inmates manifest the symptoms of a recent, diagnosable mental illness.2 A smaller subset of criminal defendants endures such severe mental illness that it calls into question their ability to understand the proceedings against them or to assist in their own defense. Representing these clients can raise thorny legal and ethical issues.3 Perhaps the most vexing scenario involves a defendant who has been found incompetent to stand trial and refuses medication. Should defense counsel defend her client’s refusal in all cases (notwithstanding the client’s possible incapacity to make treatment decisions)? Or should counsel second-guess the refusal? There are no perfect answers, but a relatively recent case illuminates an underappreciated option.

United States v. Pfeifer

Deryke Pfeifer was indicted for threatening to kill President Obama. Pfeifer suffered fro

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