Application: competence to stand trial and the insanity defense

Application: Competence to Stand Trial and the Insanity Defense

Forensic psychologists deal with two particularly controversial issues: judging whether a defendant is competent to stand trial and whether a defendant was legally insane at the time he or she committed an offense. Both issues require evaluations of the defendant’s mental state. A defendant is deemed competent to stand trial if he or she has the ability to function with full awareness and understanding in a trial. If a defendant cannot assist in his or her own defense, or does not understand the legal proceedings, he or she usually is declared incompetent. How does a forensic psychologist determine a defendant’s mental competence? Does mental illness or mental retardation automatically signify a defendant is incompetent? What if a defendant is competent with medication, but incompetent without it?

The insanity defense also raises a number of controversial issues. A successful insanity defense proves that a defendant was unable to distinguish right from wrong or understand the consequences of his or her actions. This defense usually stirs fierce debate because it is difficult to assess insanity, especially at the time of the crime, which could have been months or years before the trial.

For this assignment, review the Week 4 Application Case Study in the Learning Resources and analyze whether the insanity defense or a claim of incompetence to stand trial might be more successful in this case. This assignment is due by Day 7 of Week 5. You should begin analyzing the case now to submit the assignment by next week.

To prepare for this Assignment:

  • Review Chapters 8 and 9 in your course text, Forensic and Legal Psychology, and focus on the issues surrounding competence to stand trial and the insanity defense. Also consider criteria psychologists frequently use to determine whether a defendant is competent to stand trial or legally insane.
  • Review the Week 4 Application Case Study provided in this week’s Learning Resources
  • Search the Walden Library, and select one peer-reviewed article related to competency to stand trial and one peer-reviewed article related to the insanity defense.

The Assignment (3-page minimum):

  • Review the Week 4 Application Case Study provided in this week’s Learning Resources, and identify factors in this case that might be relevant to the defendant’s competence to stand trial or use of the insanity defense.
  • Identify circumstances under which a defendant might be found incompetent to stand trial and the circumstances that might warrant the insanity defense.
  • Explain whether or not the insanity defense might be successful in the case.
  • Make sure you briefly summarize both articles you selected from the Walden Library, and apply the findings to this case.
  • Explain whether or not the claim for incompetence to stand trial might be successful in the case.
  • Be sure to provide references in APA format for the two peer-reviewed articles you selected from the current literature.
  • Remember, this application is a two-week assignment and counts twice as much as your Week 1 Application Assignment. Therefore, your response to this assignment should be more substantial than your response to the Application Assignment in Week 1.

Support your Application Assignment with specific references to all resources used in its preparation. You are asked to provide a reference list for all resources, including those in the Learning Resources for this course.

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