U.S. Supreme Court

Meth intoxication defense may be rebutted by court-ordered exam, SCOTUS rules


The Fifth Amendment does not bar the prosecution from introducing evidence from a court-ordered mental exam to rebut a defendant’s meth intoxication defense, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

The defendant, Scott Cheever, was convicted of fatally shooting a sheriff’s deputy in a home where he was hiding after a friend warned him that police were on the way. Cheever’s lawyers had argued his methamphetamine use made him incapable of premeditation and his long-time use of the drug had damaged his brain. The state, however, rebutted the defense with evidence from a court-ordered psychiatric exam in an effort to show Cheever was affected by his antisocial personality, rather than drug use.

The state rebuttal evidence does not violate the Fifth Amendment, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the unanimous court. “The state permissibly followed where the defense led,” she wrote in her opinion (PDF).

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that the prosecution may introduce findings from a court-ordered mental examination for the limited purpose of rebutting a mental-status defense. The Kansas Supreme Court distinguished Cheever’s case and vacated his conviction, however, on the ground that voluntary intoxication is not a mental disease or defect under state law.

Sotomayor disagreed with the Kansas court. “This reasoning misconstrues our precedents,” she said.

Hat tip to SCOTUSblog.

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