Competency to Stand Trial Robert Cochrane, Psy.D., ABPP Issue Contributor Christopher M. King, JD, PhD Content Editor Most forensic psychologists are well aware of two landmark decisions in the 1960s and 70s that provided guidance to courts when they are faced with decisions regarding when to … Durham v. United States, (1954) In this case Durham was charged with housebreaking. While one’s competency to stand trial is perhaps the most familiar question raised, there are other types of competency disputes that may warrant expert competency assessment by a forensic psychiatrist. When the court determines an individual is incompetent to stand trial, the law dictates that the individual can’t be … The defendant in this case had a long history of trouble with the law and previous psychiatric commitments. Landmark Cases‎ > ‎ Competency to Stand Trial. In fact, competency to stand trial evaluations and subsequent treatment and adjudication require more financial resources than any other venture in forensic psychology (Zapf, Skeem & Golding, 2005). Constitutional Issues Due Process Conviction of a person incompetent to proceed to trial violates right to fair trial Violated when state fails to provide adequate procedures for determining competence There can be no trial or further prosecution if defendant is incompetent Pate v.Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966) The landmark 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Jackson v. Indiana prohibited the indefinite commitment of criminal defendants on grounds of incompetence to stand trial if there was no substantial probability of restoration to competency in the foreseeable future. Because of this case, Competency to Stand Trial evaluations now often also have to offer an opinion regarding if the defendant should be forced to receive psychiatric medications based on the Sell criteria. This is known as “competence.” When a defendant’s mental state restricts the person from understanding or comprehending the charges in their case, the court deems them incompetent to stand trial. Ford v. Wainwright (US Supreme Court 1986) The Court ruled that an insane person (they meant an incompetent person) cannot be put to death. Competency to Stand Trial. Trial competence protects the defendant's right to present a defense as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment and serves to maintain fairness in, and the dignity of, the court. Judged competent to stand trial and convicted of all charges, Tortorici committed suicide in prison, reopening debate over his mental competence. Approximately 25,000 trial competency evaluations are conducted annually. Dusky v. Competency issues can arise at several different junctures along the life cycle of a case. 14 Ten percent of all state-provided psychiatric hospital beds (and one-third of all forensic mental health beds) are occupied by people who have been found incompetent to stand trial. The legal system in the United States requires that criminal defendants be competent to stand trial. In determining whether the defendant is competent to stand trial, the court must determine "whether [the defendant] has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding -- and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him." 74 Most of these patients do not face long prison terms if convicted.