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Killer may be forced to receive medication

| Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

An Allegheny County judge is scheduled to hear arguments Monday about whether state prison officials in Pittsburgh can forcibly give a man serving a life sentence for murder the medication they say he needs to stay alive.

Common Pleas Judge Eugene Strassburger signed an order Tuesday granting a doctor temporary authority to administer daily insulin and intravenous fluids to Darryl Robinson, 49, who is housed at the state prison in Woods Run.

Robinson was convicted of first-degree murder in Philadelphia. He began serving his life sentence in January 2000, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said. Court records state he was moved to Woods Run in November 2008,

Robinson suffers from several diseases and medical issues, including diabetes, hepatitis, hyperlipidema, hypertension and diabetic neuropathy, according to a court petition filed by attorney Theron Perez on behalf of the Corrections Department. He is in the prison infirmary. It's not clear whether an attorney will represent Robinson.

To treat his conditions, doctors prescribed for Robinson diabetes medication (insulin and glucophage) twice daily, periodic blood draws to evaluate blood sugar and other health signs, and cholesterol and blood pressure medications, according to court filings.

"Their medical care is part of their incarceration. We have to do what we have to do to keep them healthy while they're incarcerated," McNaughton said.

Witold "Vic" Walczak, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Pittsburgh, said the ACLU typically doesn't get involved such cases.

"The law is pretty clear. The state can force prisoners to take medication to keep them alive -- even for capital inmates, which makes no sense," Walczak said. "The cases we get involved in are if the patient needs life-sustaining treatment, and the state won't give it."

McNaughton said it's not uncommon for the state Department of Corrections to ask a judge for a court order to treat an inmate who is refusing medical care.

Robinson intermittently refused to take his medications or undergo testing during the past year. But in the past month he refused treatment 14 out of 17 days, which could place his life in danger, according to the court filings.

A doctor diagnosed Robinson with schizophrenia and paranoid delusional disorder, and he refuses to take medications prescribed for his mental health, the filings said.

"Mr. Robinson's behavior is likely to incite other inmates to follow in his example," Perez wrote in the court petition.

"In addition, Mr. Robinson's behavior may result in death. ... The effects of his death would demoralize staff and instill the belief in the inmate population that the prison administration caused and/or permitted Mr. Robinson's death. This will lead to animosity toward the staff and undermine confidence in prison authority and medical care."

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