Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

When Can Incompetent Defendants Be Restored?

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

When Can Incompetent Defendants Be Restored?

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- The first evidence-based support for clinical factors that may help to predict when a criminal defendant who is incompetent to stand trial can be restored to competence was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Dr. Douglas Mossman said data now show that people who fit into two categories have a low probability of being restored to competency, compared with the average person sent to a hospital for restoration: people with long histories of psychotic disorders who are unresponsive to treatment and those with irremediable cognitive disorders.

Dr. Mossman, who serves as director of the division of forensic psychiatry at Wright University, Dayton, Ohio, said the courts still may deem low probabilities of success to be "substantial" enough to warrant attempts at restoration. "Nevertheless, these individuals may not be able to proceed with adjudication," according to Dr. Mossman, who is also a professor at the university.

Using records from 328 inpatient pretrial defendants who had undergone competence restoration at a state psychiatric hospital in the latter half of the 1990s, Dr. Mossman evaluated whether several types of information that are reliable and that consistently could be made available to forensic examiners would predict outcome of restoration efforts.

In the United States each year, it's estimated that between 50,000 and 60,000 criminal defendants undergo examinations of their competence to stand trial. Statistics show that about one-fifth of those are found incompetent to stand trial.

"Most of those go to hospitals for restoration, and on any given day roughly 4,000 people are in hospitals undergoing restoration of their competence to stand trial," he said.

The study also suggested that the probability of competence restoration was adversely affected by increasing age and being other than African American. …

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