The Psychologist JoAnna A. De Leon May 19, 2010 CJ233: Introduction to Forensic Psychology INSTRUCTOR: Janice Walton To determine the mental status and competency of an individual, one must spend time to question and study the person, definitely spend more than 10 minutes with the patient. Many laws have been established and put into place to protect the young, the old, the innocent and the mentally ill. Trial competence is different from being criminally responsible for your actions.
Trial competence refers to the current ability of the defendant to understand and participate in the trial process. The United States Constitution states that a person accused of a crime must be given the opportunity to appear and be present at his trial as well as to face their accuser. The physical presence of oneself is not sufficient or acceptable to be tried in court, a defendant must be mentally present as well.
Specific criteria’s vary from state to state and federal jurisdiction but is all similar in the fact that if a defendant does not understand the charges being brought against himself, the proceedings that are taking place, or the ultimate outcomes of the trial, than he will not be able to reasonable assist in his own defense, in which he will be considered to be incompetent to stand trial. The state of Texas accounts for approximately two thirds of all executions in the United States since 1977, and of those executions, Texas is also considered to be ranked in the top for executions of mentally impaired prisoners.
The state of Texas has killed at least twenty-four mentally retarded or mentally ill prisoners who were diagnosed with illnesses ranging from schizophrenia to post traumatic stress disorder and even brain damage. In 2000, the Texas Attorney General, John Cornyn claimed that the Texas justice system “offers no less than five separate procedural protections for capital murder defendants who may have any form of mental incapacity”. He stated there is a “five layered system of safeguards ensuring due process for all mentally impaired defendants” which consist of he following: * No person may be put to trial unless he is mentally competent to understand the charges against him and to assist his attorneys at trial * No person may be convicted of a crime unless the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury that the defendant intended to commit the criminal act * It is a defense to prosecution for a crime if a defendant shows he was mentally unable to know that his conduct was wrong * In the punishment phase of a capital murder case, a defendant may present to the jury any and all evidence of mental impairment in mitigation against a death sentence * A death row inmate cannot actually be executed unless he is mentally competent, which means that he understand that he is going to be executed and the reasons why Hundreds of prisoners that have already been condemned,
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