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Sane Enough to Die

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These are the two defining facts of Charles Singleton's life He's a convicted murderer. And when he's not under medication he's psychotic. The Arkansas death row inmate is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, which would ordinarily spare him the death penalty for his 1979 slaying of grocery store clerk Mary Lou York. But under a Supreme Court ruling allowing states to medicate inmatesá whose mental condition poses a danger to themselves or others, Singleton is forced to take the very drugs that render him sane enough to be executed.

Singleton had voluntarily taken the drugs until last summer, and when he stopped,á prison officials decided to forcibly medicate him.á That puts the state of Arkansas in a very dicey box. "In the majority of similar cases across the country, courts do not allow insane people to be put to death," says TIME Austin bureau chief Sam Gwynne.á "Nor have courts upheld the right of states to medicate prisoners so that they will be sane enough to execute."

On Monday, Singletoná pleaded for his life at a circuit court hearing to determine whether Arkansas may carry out the death sentence. A circuit court ruling, expected by May 22, could prove that drugs can kill you, even if they're administered by the state.