Clara Johnson, who was accused of battery, needs to be determined mentally incompetent since she has a 5-year-old child’s mental activity, which requires some other competent person to act on her behalf.
Criminal competency means a defendant’s capacity to understand the allegations, being mentally competent, to ensure that the trial would be fair (Young et al., 2018). In legal terms, competency also implies that the defendant has an ability to play a role in the process of defense, which means that mental competency is determined to the current state, not the one that was present during misconduct. Mental capacity is affected by competency in a way that confirms the ability of a person to stand the trial (Chriscoe, 2017). On the contrary, insanity, which is identified at the time of the offense, refers to the fact that a person was not of sound mind. While a jury identifies insanity, capacity can be determined only by a judge, leading to that the latter should be clarified before the trial.
In some states, it is required to provide a commitment hearing, while others have automatic commitment procedures. To evaluate one’s mental competency, forensic psychologists apply one or several tests, including the Competency to Stand Trial Assessment Instrument (CAI), the Competency to Stand Trial Screening Test (CST), and others, while also paying attention to symptoms, relationships, and potential way to restore competence (Quickel & Demakis, 2013). To determine insanity, Rogers Criminal Responsibility Assessment Scales is usually used to recognize that the defendant is not guilty. If the defendant is found to be incompetent, he or she is sent to the treatment until the full recovery and / or another person is authorized to represent their defense. In case of insanity, the defendant’s culpability is also not determined, and this person can be sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 11 involves clarifications on mental incompetence and related examinations. According to this document, any person in this state can file a motion, questioning a defendant’s mental capacity (State v. (Bryan Wayne) Hulsey, 243 Ariz. 367, 408 P.3d 408 (2018) (“Mental capacity”, 2020). If there is sufficient evidence that confirms incompetence, the court determines that the grounds are reasonable, as it was held in State v. Salazar, 128 Ariz. 461, 462 (1981). In addition, the defendant must provide medical examination results. In case the incompetence is determined, the Arizona court would require treatment until restoration unless there is clear evidence that it is not possible within 15 months.
Considering that Ms. Johnson shows the evident signs of mental incompetence, it should be verified by medical examinations and tests to provide them to the court. Based on that, Mr. Whalling can ask for being the defendant’s representor and acting on her behalf. It should be stated that Ms. Johnson is not able to understand the allegations, potential charges, and she also cannot play a role in the process of defense. The potential mental health restoration within the next 15 months with the possible extension to 6 months should be taken into account. Mr. Whalling should be ready to answer any questions about the medical history, family, and previous behavior of her client.
To conclude, mental competency defines if a person can distinguish between right and wrong. In case of Ms. Johnson, Mr. Whalling needs to confirm that she is not able to stand the trial as her mental activity is of a 5-year-old child. Possible mental health restoration, symptoms, and previous court cases should be taken into account. It appears that Mr. Whalling would be successful in verifying his client’s incompetence since the law has clear guidelines and definitions that can be easily asserted for Ms. Johnson.
Chriscoe, J. C. (2017). A Plea to North Carolina: Bring fairness to the assessment of civil battery liability for defendants with cognitive disabilities. Campbell L. Rev., 39, 241-272.
Mental capacity. (2020). Web.
Quickel, E. J., & Demakis, G. J. (2013). The Independent Living Scales in civil competency evaluations: Initial findings and prediction of competency adjudication. Law and Human Behavior, 37(3), 155-163.
Young, J. T., Davis, F. J., Wardale, S., Vassos, M., van Dooren, K., Nankervis, K., & Lennox, N. G. (2018). Severity of cognitive disability and mental health court determinations about fitness to stand trial. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 62(2), 126-139.