Nearly six months after a judge deemed him incompetent, Stoughton resident Ted Bruno was ordered by court officials on April 29 to receive involuntary medication and medical treatment.
After months of hearings where involuntary medication requests were denied, a judge changed his mind late last month.
Bruno is charged with the November 2017 homicide of his roommate. After two competency hearings, he was found incompetent to stand trial in October 2018, and was committed to the Mendota Mental Health Institute (MMHI), a state hospital for people with mental illnesses in Madison.
Bruno appeared in court on April 29 with his attorney, Eric Schulenburg, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. After multiple requests by Bruno’s doctors, all of which were declined, circuit court judge William Hanrahan agreed to administer involuntary medication. The Journal reported that MMHI psychologist Ana Garcia testified via phone that Bruno suffers from delusions and disorganized thinking.
During the October competency hearing, Judge C. William Foust said the competency evaluation concluded that Bruno exhibited “signs of unspecified schizophrenia.” A psychologist with the Wisconsin Forensic Unit, Dr. Christina Engen, who completed the October 2018 competency report, said that Bruno was unable to understand the reality of the charges against him.
Despite that, Foust refused to allow involuntary medication administration. Bruno said he felt he was competent, and Engen said she believed that with medical treatment, Bruno could become competent to stand trial.
“I’m not prepared to say he ought to be medicated just because the state wants a trial,” Foust said at that time.
Bruno has claimed that he is competent and the victim of a conspiracy against him, stated in several of his last 19 court appearances since the incident, and in multiple letters written to Hanrahan.
Bruno’s competency was discussed two additional times during case updates in court, once in January and again in March. Both times, Hanrahan denied involuntary medication and another competency hearing, respectively.
That changed last month when the competency hearing was scheduled just five days before the appearance, per the Wisconsin State Statute that requires no more than 10 days between a motion for treatment and a hearing.
Bruno was committed for a maximum of 12 months to Mendota Mental Health Institute, which expires in October. At that point, or sooner if his competency is returned, he could face trial for the felony charge of intentional homicide. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
Schulenburg argued in court that the state has not reached the threshold for forcing a criminal suspect to take medication, the State Journal reported.
Under the clauses of the fifth and fourteenth amendments, which protect due process, individuals have a liberty to avoid being involuntarily administered antipsychotic drugs.
What has come into question, however, is how this applies to individuals in protective custody.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the involuntary medication order in a 2010 case of State V. Wood, when John A. Wood was involuntarily medicated and put in treatment for paranoid schizophrenia after beating his stepfather to death with a brick in 1978.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court determined that due process requires periodic review of the medication order and that a finding of present dangerousness is not required in order to forcibly medicate a committed individual. Past competency hearings have asserted that Bruno has not demonstrated dangerous behavior, which was the case with Wood, but that his lack of competency stems from not understanding court proceedings and a belief of a conspiracy against him by both the justice system and his attorney, whom he had tried to fire last year but the request was rejected by the court.
The statute requires that a licensed physician must sign a statement asserting the person needs medication or treatment, and that the person is not competent to refuse such. Garcia testified in court and submitted an updated report requesting the treatment.