The Competency To Stand Trial Essay

1402 words - 6 pages

The criminal justice system takes on a pivotal role in pursuing and preventing crimes in society. When a suspect is caught and then faced with charges for a violent crime, they legally have the right to a fair trial. In order for a criminal proceeding to successfully take place, the defendant must be fully aware of their surroundings, have a basic understanding of court procedures, as well as being capable of defending their one case. Competency to stand trial (CST) is essential for maintaining fairness in the courtroom and producing a just verdict. However, if a defendant is unable to understand legal proceedings due to mental illness or impairment, they must be thoroughly assessed and evaluated before declared incompetent to stand trial. Carrying out a case with a defendant who lacks mental capacity causes numerous issues because the individual is incapable of supplying their lawyers with information regarding their crime or any of the witness testimonies at trial. Lack of comprehensible communication between a defendant and attorney forces an ineffective defense in the case. Mental disturbances in the defendant that may cause disorderly conduct in the court room are considered disruptive and weaken the authority of the legal system. Supreme Court cases that have dealt with competency to stand trial issues over the years have made significant rulings, which have stressed the importance of identifying whether or not a defendant is in fact incompetent.
The concern for competency to stand trial originated in the 1960, Supreme Court case, Dusky v. United States. Milton Dusky was a 33-year-old man who kidnapped and illegally transported Alison McQuery, a 15-year-old girl, across the Kansas state line. Driven alongside two other boys, McQuery was taken to a deserted area and was then raped. Dusky was arrested and given a CST evaluation before his trial. Based on evaluations, psychologists claimed he was suffering from schizophrenia and later testified in a competency hearing that Dusky would be unable to sufficiently assist in his defense because of this mental illness. However, according to the trial court ruling, Dusky was competent enough to stand trial, but was later found guilty and given a sentence of 45 years in prison. Although he appealed and was clearly not competent based on his trial records, the Supreme Court claimed that a competent defendant must have a present ability to consult with their attorney and have a rational and factual understanding of the legal proceedings. Even though Dusky had schizophrenia, the Supreme Court believed that the defendant’s mental state during a crime was not pertinent when determining their competency to stand trial. Dusky’s mental status exam was inadequate, but with a retrial, he had 20 years reduced off of his sentence. This landmark case was initially granted hearing because the Supreme Court declared that a defendant has the right to a competency evaluation before trial. Dusky v. United States...

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