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Interactive video lesson plan for: Mental Health Issues (s12a)

Activity overview:

Mental Health
Many capital defendants suffer from serious mental disorders that present a number of legal issues – whether one was “sane” at the time of the crime, whether a defendant has sufficient understanding of court proceedings and the ability to cooperate with a lawyer so as to be “competent” for trial, whether a defendant is capable of making a decision to enter a guilty plea or give up further appeals even if it means he will be executed, and, finally, whether a person understands the relationship between his execution and the crime committed so that he is “competent” to be executed. We consider some of the difficult questions courts face in making factual determinations of a defendant’s mental state. We also look at the separate issue of competency for execution. No one can be executed unless he or she understand the nature of the penalty and its relationship to the crime committed (i.e., that the execution is punishment for the crime), yet the mental health of some who have been sentenced to death deteriorates significantly by the time their execution approaches. We will look at how courts decide whether someone is “competent” to be executed and we will see that sometimes those whose mental awareness is highly questionable are nevertheless put to death.

Competency for Trial (s12a)
This segment examines each of these issues – the legal definitions set by the Supreme Court or legislatures, the evidence considered in deciding them, whether defendants may be forcibly medicated to make them competent for trial, and whether a “next friend” can represent the interests of a mentally ill person who wants to give up further appeals and be executed.

Class readings:

Tagged under: Yale,Capital Punishment,Stephen Bright,Death Penalty,Race,Poverty,Disadvantage,racial disparities,injustice,Competency Trial

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