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Dr. Sell denied trial; videotapes document prison abuse

Although a recent independent psychiatric evaluation by AAPS Immediate Past President Mark Schiller, M.D., found Charles “Tom” Sell, D.D.S., competent to stand trial, and a trial had indeed been scheduled, U.S. District Judge Donald Stohr rejected Sell’s request to go forward with the trial, at a hearing on Nov. 22.

Dr. Sell has been imprisoned without trial for nearly eight years. He has refused to plead guilty to one count of murder conspiracy though he did offer to plead to one count of mail fraud.

His lawyers, who want to have him declared incompetent, refused to allow him to take the witness stand during the hearing. So Dr. Sell raised his hand, stood up, and began talking to the judge.

He declared that he was competent and wanted his trial to begin on Nov. 29, as scheduled. He stated his lawyers had asked that he be ruled unfit because they are not prepared for trial.

Defense psychiatrist C. Robert Cloniger said that Dr. Sell is delusional because he is too fixed on mistreatment at the Springfield, Mo., prison hospital to adequate address the issues at trial. Dr. Cloninger had reviewed two videotapes made by prison officials that allegedly documented the abuse. The tapes and his report are under seal, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained a copy of the report.

According to the report, the videotape shows Dr. Sell, who was behaving in a peaceable and cooperative fashion, being pulled from his cell by seven guards, some in full riot gear. He was handcuffed to a “black box” on a concrete slab and left for 19 hours. Dr. Sell was also forcefully sprayed with scalding hot water at 120 degrees F. in a shower, as a female staffer watched. He suffered first-degree burns on his legs, chest, and back. He also had cuts on his hand and marks on his back from being dragged down the hall by his handcuffs.

Dr. Cloninger said that Dr. Sell could recover only if treated with “compassion and respect.” He said that Dr. Sell is not a danger to himself or others either inside or outside of the “institutional setting.”

See Post-Dispatch, Nov. 22, 2004.

Additional information:

Court documents (including AAPS amicus briefs), handwritten motion by Dr. Sell, and other reports and links: www.aapsonline.org/judicial/sell.htm

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