Reply to a student discussion only 400 words minimum total.

The following are two discussions.  EACH one needs a minimum reply of 200 WORDS EACH.


Discussion # 1


Instructions:  REPLY TO THE BELOW DISCUSSION: (minimum of 200 words)


Competency To Stand Trial

The current standard used to address the issue of competency is the Dusky standard, formed by the decision in the court case Dusky v. US.  As identified in Dusky v. US, a defendant is competent to stand trial if he has the ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of understanding and an ability to understand the proceedings against them (Bartol, 2011). This means that a person needs to fully understand the charges against them and how the court system works and be able to logically and reasonably communicate with his or her attorney in order to participate in their defense.  Many different tests can give us an idea of whether or not a defendant possesses these abilities, such as the Wechsler-Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th ed (WAIS-IV) which would give insight into their intellectual functioning and reasoning ability.

Insanity/Criminal Responsibility

The idea behind the insanity defense in a criminal proceeding is that due to a mental illness or psychological problems, the defendant is unable to understand why his or her actions were wrong and whether they can be held responsible for their actions. It is generally accepted that it would be wrong to prosecute and punish someone who does not fully understand their actions and their consequences. It is in this capacity that a mental status exam can be invaluable since it gives us insight into their present mental functioning and since we cannot know exactly their mental state at the time of the offense, this gives us a good idea of where they are and where they might have been.

Does a mentally ill individual need to be either competent or insane, or can a person be both?

A mental illness could prevent an individual from being competent to stand trial and also render them “insane” as defined by the legal system.  A person could be incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness that would also affect their level of criminal responsibility, however competency is something that can be worked on and restored but insanity pertains to their state at the time of the offense and can be evaluated and studied but cannot be changed. It is possible at the time of trial, however, to be deemed sane but incompetent or insane but competent (Bartol, 2011).

Should someone who is not competent to stand trial should be forced to take medications to become competent in order to face full legal penalties for his or her crimes?

While using medication to restore an individual to competency may help them cope with whatever mental illness is at issue, I do not believe that fully addresses the question of criminal responsibility since after medication they may be currently competent to stand trial, however their mental status at the time of the offense was such that they could not fully comprehend the scope and consequences of their actions. Being medicated could restore a person to competency but I do not believe it changes the level of criminal responsibility they should face.


Bartol, Curt R. Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application, 2nd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc, 04/2011. VitalBook file.



Discussion # 2

Instructions:  REPLY TO THE Students discussion below: (minimum of 200 words)


Briefly identify the legal standard used to determine competency through an evaluation. What psycholegal questions need to be addressed?

     The legal standard for one’s criminal responsibility or competency to stand trial is based on their current level functioning and not during the commission of the crime or anytime in between.  The legal standard for this is based on Dusky v. United States (1960). Furthermore, the defendant should be mentally and physically able to assist in the courtroom and have an understanding of the proceedings, to include having an understanding that the judge has a neutral role in the proceedings.  In order to determine if the defendant is faking incompetence, the psycholegal legal question that needs to be addressed is, “What do you want the report to say about your competence”?  This will help in making a better assessment about the defendant on whether or not they are attempting to feign competence.  Typically, an innocent person would want to be heard and plead their innocence and a person with a mental disorder who may be experiencing auditory hallucinations may want to express to the court the message being relayed to them. If found not competent to stand trial, the defendant will undergo treatment in a psychiatric hospital until such time when he or she is fit to stand trial and then will be tried for his or her crime.   

Briefly identify the legal standard used to determine insanity through an evaluation. What psycholegal questions need to be addressed?

     The legal standard to determine insanity or Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) through an evaluation is very difficult to do and is based on the M’Naughten Rule.  In order to determine, with 100% certainty, that the defendant was not sane during the commission of the offense, the evaluator would have had to have been present to witness the defendant’s current status during that time.  So this leaves the evaluator to determine if the defendant knew that what he or she was doing was wrong when they were doing it.  In court, insanity is not always easy to prove.  If found NGRI, the defendant will be sentenced to a psychiatric correctional hospital for appropriate treatment.     

Does a mentally ill individual need to be either competent or insane, or can a person be both? Why or why not?

      A mentally ill can be both, however, I feel that someone who is mentally ill must not have a mental disorder that affects their ability to fully understand the nature of their actions and the consequences of those actions. 

Comment on whether someone who is not competent to stand trial should be forced to take medications to become competent in order to face full legal penalties for his or her crimes.


     I think that if someone is not competent to stand trial and is placed in a psychiatric hospital and refuses to take medication, overtime, they will eventually decide on their own to take medication to get better so that they can get out of that hospital.  I use to say, “yes”, they should be forced to but now I have had a change of heart and feel that if they refuse then they should remain institutionalized until they are fit to return to court.  The unfortunate part to this is that this will remain costly for the state to continue to treat this person while they prolong the treatment.  

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