In 1960, the United Sates Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that has helped shape how forensic psychology professionals conduct evaluations of a defendant’s competency to stand trial (Dusky vs. United States). Milton Dusky was tried for aiding in the rape and kidnapping of a young girl. Although he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of his first trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison. His appeal and reversal of his sentence was granted by the Supreme Court. He was sent back to the lower court and received a 20-year sentence. In its ruling, the Court created a standard for competency that relies on the determination of whether the defendant has “sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and a “rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him” (Dusky vs. United States, 362 US 402 1960).
Although the definition of competency to stand trial may differ from one state to the next, most definitions have the same basic elements as are present in the Dusky decision. The federal definition of incompetency to stand trial is as follows: “…the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense” (U.S. Code § 4241).
To prepare for this Discussion:
With these thoughts in mind:
Post by Day 4 a brief description of two hypothetical examples of defendants who could be considered incompetent to stand trial using the federal definition of competency to stand trial. Explain how and why each might be considered incompetent, linking your reasoning to the language of the definition. Be specific.
Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.
Bottom of Form