Legal Competency and the Court Essay

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Abstract The subject of competency of an accused individual to stand trial has remained a part of jurisprudence more or less since trials became a part of the system. In the middle ages the accused that were infirm were tortured until they either confessed that they were fit to stand trial, were severely injured, or died during the process. As an example those that had been accused of a crime who were mute had increasingly heavier weights hung on them until they either collapsed, seen as an admission of either being fit to stand trial or guilt of the crime as determined by the inquisitor, or quickly acquiesced and stood trial. The rule of law has progressed since such times but we continue to have our problems with the handling of those who are mentally incapable of assisting in their defense. In fact in the United States and most other countries one cannot stand trial unless he or she is legally competent to do so. This is of course is a sword that cuts two ways. On the one hand those who are deemed by the court to be incompetent will not stand trial and will be released. However, release in this instance means the release of the now legally incompetent individual into the confines and control of psychiatric incarceration. Our courts have spent a great deal of time defining competency and deciding who has the ability to decide the mental capabilities of the accused. In fact a whole industry has been spawned in the personage of expert witnesses, the testing they conduct, and the opinions rendered all involving the competency of the accused. This paper will delve into the background of how we have determined our present day go-round with court determined competency, how we have arrived at the point we are ay, and

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