August 25, 2005

US judge orders forced feeding of convicted sniper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Maryland judge on Thursday gave
corrections officials authority to forcibly administer food and
water to convicted Washington-area sniper John Muhammad who has
refused to eat since he was transferred from a Virginia prison
four days ago.

Muhammad was sentenced to death last year in Virginia for
one of 10 sniper-style murders that terrorized Washington and
its Maryland and Virginia suburbs in 2002.

Muhammad is awaiting a second murder trial in Maryland,
along with convicted co-defendant Lee Malvo. Malvo was
sentenced to life in prison without parole for a separate
killing in Virginia.

The director of the Department of Correction and
Rehabilitation in Montgomery County, Maryland, said Muhammad
had refused to eat or drink since arriving there on Monday.

Arthur Wallenstein said in a statement his agency, prompted
by a medical evaluation, sought authority to be "allowed to
hydrate and feed Mr. Muhammad to ensure his continued health
and availability for trial."

Circuit Court Judge James Ryan said in a temporary
restraining order that corrections officials "may administer
necessary nourishment, hydration and medical care" over
Muhammad's objections or physical resistance and by "medically
reasonable force," if necessary.

Muhammad and Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the killings,
were captured in Maryland, but then-U.S. Attorney General John
Ashcroft ordered the two to be tried first in Virginia because
that jurisdiction allows the death penalty for those under 18.

The two are also charged with murder in Louisiana and