January 9, 2013

SCOTUS: No right to competency in habeas cases

In April, I blogged about the legal controversy over whether a convicted prisoner awaiting execution has a right to be competent during the sometimes-lengthy course of habeas appeals. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court gave its unanimous answer:


The opinion came in the consolidated cases of Ernest Valencia Gonzales of Arizona and Sean Carter of Ohio. Both men's mental health deteriorated as they languished on death rows while their appeals wound slowly through the courts.

"Given the backward-looking, record-based nature of most federal habeas proceedings, counsel can generally provide effective representation to a habeas petitioner regardless of the petitioner's competence," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas.

So, any of you forensic psychologists with pending evaluations of competency in habeas cases can close out those files and put them in storage.

The opinion is HERE. My blog post laying out the legal controversy is HERE. A lengthier report on yesterday's opinion can be found at Courthouse News Service (HERE).

Hat tip: Ken Pope

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