When a person is accused of a crime, it is the responsibility of a judge to deem them competent to stand trial, mentally unstable to at the time of their trial, or not guilty by reason of insanity. This was something that was highly disputed during and after the case of John Salvi. John Salvi was an anti-abortionist of strong Catholic faith who shot and killed two people in attacks at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Throughout the trial, defense attorneys attempted to argue Salvi was suffering from psychological disorders that would make him incompetent for trial. Ultimately, however Salvi was found competent to stand trial. After reading Salvi’s full psychiatric interview, the official court transcript of the four-day competency hearing, and the day-to-day summary; I have come to agree that the defendant, John Salvi was competent to stand trial.
Competency to stand trial relates directly to the defendant’s mental state at the time of trial and during the proceedings. This does not directly relate to the mental state of the defendant at the time of the crime. This determination is left to the judge of the trial. One of the main ways that a defendant is tested for competency is by hiring a psychologist to perform a psychological evaluation on the defendant. Some of the things that are needed to proven to show competency are being able to communicate with the defense counsel, being able to understand and process information, understanding the elements of the charge, the gravity of the charges, and the possible outcome and being able to process information. Typically, intelligence, language difficulties, communication skills, and education level have little bearing on declaring incompetency.
John Salvi showed competency in not one, bu...
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...ns were elective and not an involuntary symptom of a psychological disorder.
Based off of these examples pulled from the competency trial and interview, I believe the judge was correct in ruling that John Salvi was competent to stand trial. However, based off of some of the things defense brought up it is easy to see how insanity defense still needs to be researched. There is still so much uncertainty of the scientific knowledge of abnormal behavior. Lastly, these interviews conducted by psychologists happen months to years after the crime occurred and these clinicians may not be able to one hundred percent assess the mental instability at the time of the crime. It is clear that this trial has opened the eyes of many when it comes to insanity and competency and hopefully the discussions will lead to more accurate scales for testing the competency of those on trial.
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