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Lecture 4

PSYC 268 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Intellectual Disability, Insanity Defense, Actus Reus

Course Code
PSYC 268
Deborah Connolly

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PSYC 268 – Fall 2012
Week 4 Book Readings: Chapter 2 pp. 29-45; Chapter 4 pp. 97-103
Legal Decision Maker – judge or jury
Legal Nature
- Civil – involuntary hospitalization, personal injury, child custody
- Criminal – adjunctive competency, insanity
Competency Doctrine – criminal proceedings against an individual may be postponed if the defendant is
unable to participate in his or her defense on account of mental disease or defect
-Rationale: dates back to the 17th century; is unfair to try a defendant if he or she is unable to
participate meaningfully in court proceedings
oi.e. right to legal counsel, confront his or her accuser/s, testify on his or her own behalf
-Also protects the dignity and integrity of court proceedings – allowing an incompetent
individual to be tried and convicted would offend the integrity of the court and the public would
see the court as being unfair
Types of Criminal Competencies
-Umbrella terms: Adjudicative Competence or Competence to Proceed – encompass all the
various types of criminal competencies that may arise as an issue from the time a suspect is first
arrested and charged until he or she receives a final disposition by the court or is executed
-Competency to Stand Trial – evaluation of defendant’s abilities to understand the nature and
object of the court proceedings as well as his or her ability to participate in the proceedings and
assist in his or her defense; most common
-Competency to Waive Miranda – refers to the mental state of the defendant at the time that he or
she was being interrogated by the police following an arrest, and whether the defendant was able
to intelligently, willingly, and knowingly waive the right to his or her silence and understand his
or her rights to obtaining an attorney and having an attorney present while the defendant is
-Competency to Waive Counsel or Proceed Pro Se – refers to whether the defendant is able to
intelligently, willfully, and knowingly waive his or her right to the assistance of counsel and
proceed to trial pro se (for self) by representing oneself
oRequires a higher level of competence than competence to stand trial
-Competency to Be Sentenced – refers to whether the defendant is able to understand the reason
why he or she is to be sentenced as well as the sentence itself
-Competency to Be Executed – refers to whether the defendant (now inmate living on death row)
is able to understand that he or she is to be put to death as well as the reasons why he or she is to
be executed
Legal Standards for Competency
-Dusky vs. US (1960) – in order for a defendant to be considered competent to stand trial he or she
must have “sufficient present ability to consult with his or her lawyer with a reasonable degree or

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rational understanding and…a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against
him or her”
Competency Procedures
-A formal inquiry must occur when ever a bona fide doubt about a defendant’s competency is
- Issue of competency can be raised by the defendant, the accused, or the court
-If the defendant is found incompetent to stand trial, he or she is usually sent to a psychiatric
hospital or forensic facility for restoration of competence
oMajority are restored to competency within 6 months
oFor the small proportion of defendants who are incompetent to stand trial and who are
unable to be restored to competency, the charges will usually be dropped or dismissed
without prejudice
oIf the defendant is considered to be a risk to others, he or she may be committed to a
psychiatric institution under civil commitment proceedings
Competency Assessment for Competency to Stand Trial
- Most common form of criminal forensic assessments conducted
- Evaluations can be conducted in a relatively short period of time on an outpatient basis
-Focus is on the defendant’s current mental state
- In addition to using forensic assessment instruments (below), the evaluator may also seek third-
party information, such as records that exist about the defendant’s mental health or interviews with
family members or others who can speak about his or her current functioning within the context of
his or her previous functioning
- The evaluator will then write a report of their professional opinion, the court will then make a
determination whether the defendant is competent to stand trial or will hold a hearing on the issue
of competence and make a final disposition
Forensic Assessment Instruments for Competency to Stand Trial
-Fitness Interview Test-Revised (FIT-R by Roesch, Zapf, and Eaves 2006) – provide questions to
be asked in 16 different domains relevant to proceeding with a criminal case
-MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Criminal Adjudication (MacCAT-CA by
Poythress, Monahan 1999) – provides standardized administration and scoring for inquiries related
to relevant psycholegal abilities
-Evaluation of Competency to Stand Trial-Revised (ECST-R by Rogers, Tillbrook 2004) –
provides standardized administration and scoring for inquiries related to relevant psycholegal
-Robey’s Checklist (1965) – the first forensic assessment instrument developed and consisted of a
checklist of items to guide a clinicians evaluation of competency to stand trial
-Competency to Stand Trial Assessment Instrument (CAI by the Laboratory of Community
Psychiatry 1973) – interview-based instrument contains 13 items related to legal issues and serves
to provide structure to the evaluation of competency to stand trial
-Competence Assessment for Standing Trial for Defendants with Mental Retardation (CAST-
MR by Everington, Luckasson 1992) – contains 50 items that cover three areas; basic legal
concepts, skills to assist the defense, and understanding the case event
-Interdisciplinary Fitness Review (IFI by Golding, Roesch 1984) and IFI-R (Golding 1993) –
assess both legal and psychopathological aspects of competency to stand trial; covers 31 relatively
specific psychological abilities that are organized into 11 global domains and can also be used to
assist in the assessment of competency to plead guilty, to proceed pro se, and to confess
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