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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jared Loughner Ruled Incompetent to Stand Trial

Here is a link to an NPR story about Jared Loughner's incompetence to stand trial:



In Federal Court, a person who is competent to stand trial must meet the Dusky Standard: The defendant must have sufficient present ability to 1) consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding along with 2) a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.

In Colorado, the competency standard is worded slightly differently, but it is essentially the same two-pronged approach. The defendant must have a "mental disability" or "developmental disability" that prevents him from meeting something very similar to the Dusky Standard.

For Mr. Loughner, a psychologist and a psychiatrist independently concluded that he had Schizophrenia (a mental disease or defect) that kept him from being able to consult with his lawyer (he thinks his lawyer is part of a conspiracy against him) and kept him from being able to have a rational understanding of the courtroom proceedings (he likely cannot make rational decisions about court-related matters such as entering a plea or waiving rights due to his Schizophrenia). Neither the defense nor the prosecution objected to the doctors' opinions and the judge ruled Mr. Loughner to be incompetent.

It is important to note that being ruled incompetent is not a free pass. It is not a legal defense, and it is not a plea (like the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity).

Instead, being found incompetent is a matter of legal fact. It accomplishes two things: 1) It protects the defendant's civil rights (the idea being that one's civil rights are violated if the defendant cannot understand those rights) and 2) It insures that the defendant will be put on trial and face adjudication. A defendant who is actually incompetent but who faces trial and is found guilty has grounds for an appeal. If the guilty verdict is overturned because it was determined that the incompetent defendant's rights were violated, that defendant is free and cannot be tried again for the same crimes.

I am sure Mr. Loughner's prosecuting attorneys understand this, which is why they did not object to the judge's ruling that Mr. Loughner is presently incompetent. They want to do everything perfectly so he does not have a case to appeal to a higher court.

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.
www.CherryCreekPsychology.com

2 comments:

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