Law & Psychiatry: "A Fool for a Client?" Mental Illness and the Right of Self-Representation

Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY 10032, USA.
Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) (Impact Factor: 2.41). 11/2008; 59(10):1096-8. DOI: 10.1176/
Source: PubMed


Does the Constitution require a trial court to allow an obviously impaired man to represent himself? This column discusses the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Indiana v. Edwards, which allows states to limit a defendant's right to self-representation when the individual lacks the mental capacity to conduct a trial defense unless represented. Previous cases bearing on the decision are discussed, including Dusky v. U.S. in 1960, which set the standard for competence to stand trial; Faretta v. California in 1975, which established the right of criminal defendants to represent themselves; and Godinez v. Moran in 1993, which upheld the Dusky standard for trial-related competence.

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    ABSTRACT: Anders Breivik's murder of 77 people in Norway in 2011 led to an unusual clash of interests. With conflicting psychiatric reports regarding his sanity, prosecutors argued that Breivik should be found not guilty by reason of insanity, whereas the defense strongly maintained that he was sane and responsible for his actions. Imposing an insanity defense on an unwilling defendant pits societal interests in fair adjudications against the right of defendants to control their defense. For crimes with political motivations, an imposed insanity verdict discredits the perpetrator and may distract the public from the threats posed by extreme political views.
    Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) 01/2013; 64(1):4-6. DOI:10.1176/ · 2.41 Impact Factor
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