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Court shoots down appeal of mentally ill offender 

A man who assaulted his mother and sister with pepper spray in 2013 will remain committed in the state’s mental health system after he refused to follow his treatment plan.

The California 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 22 that the man, David Stephens, continues to suffer from a severe mental disorder and will remain in the custody of the California Department of Mental Health Services. Stephens took his fight to SLO County Superior Court by challenging a 2015 ruling by the state’s Board of Prison Terms that labeled him a mentally disordered offender, involuntary placing him in the care of the department.

Stephens was committed after a 2013 incident where he assaulted his mother and sister, spraying them with pepper spay. The two were able to escape through a window, and Stephens then stole their cell phones. He was charged with aggravated assault and grand theft. At the time, Stephens had stopped taking his antipsychotic medication, and was using methamphetamine, according to the appellate court’s decision. At the time of his arrest, Stephens claimed that he was a talk-show celebrity, that he could take photographs with his eyes, and that the FBI and CIA were “tracking him with a brain chip implant.”

Stephens’ appeal argued that there was no evidence that his severe mental disorder could not be kept in remission without treatment, and asserted his right to refuse medication. While the court agreed that Stephens had a statutory right to refuse medication, the court can use that refusal as evidence that his mental disorder was not in remission.

“Stated another way, a prisoner’s exercise of the right to refuse psychotropic medication does not exempt the prisoner from an MDO commitment if the prisoner poses a danger to others by reason of his or her severe mental disorder,” the appellate court’s decision read. 

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