Competency to Stand Trial There Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

It is clear that Mr. Moran met the legal standard for competency. Because of concerns about his competency, likely prompted by Moran's suicide attempt, the trial court had Moran examined by two psychiatrists. Both doctors found him competent. The dissent attempted to question Moran's competency by citing notes one of the psychiatrist had made, which suggested that Moran's guilt may have hampered his ability to give his best efforts towards his defense. Given that Moran was responsible for the senseless deaths of four people, the fact that he felt guilt and was somewhat impaired by it was probably more indicative of mental competency than if he had not felt guilt. Competency to stand trial cannot and should not be confused with competency to escape a guilty verdict.

While I agree that represented and unrepresented individuals should have the same competency standards, and believe that Moran was competent to stand trial, I am disturbed by some of the thresholds for competency. When competency is assessed, trial courts are frequently looking for a definable mental illness to determine whether or not a defendant is competent to stand trial. However, many trial courts are woefully uneducated about mental retardation and its impact on competency. Concerns about mental retardation and criminal justice have had some impact on the criminal law, for example there is currently a moratorium on executing the retarded, but courts still have not instituted sufficient ways of determining mental competency when a defendant's impairment is retardation rather than mental illness. Instead, many trial judges adhere to stereotypes, and believe that they would be able to recognize a mentally retarded defendant by appearance or demeanor. The reality is that many retarded people who are higher-functioning may appear fully competent, but still be unable to fully understand the criminal process. Therefore, I believe retarded individuals should not be considered competent to stand trial, with or without the assistance of an attorney, and that a competency hearing, where a defendant is represented by counsel and cannot waive that right, should take place…

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