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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ind. Decisions - SCOTUS decides Indiana v. Edwards

Indiana v. Edwards (07-208) - Argued 3/26/2008. Whether States may adopt a higher standard for measuring competency to represent oneself at trial than for measuring competency to stand trial. [See ILB entry from March 26th here.]

According to SCOTUSBlog: "The Supreme Court ruled by a 7-2 vote on Thursday that a state may require a criminal defendant who suffers from a mental illness to have a lawyer, rather than allowing the individual to act as his own defense counsel, even when the individual is competent enough to be tried."

Here (thanks to SCOTUSBlog for the link) is today's opinion, including the Syllabus. From the conclusion of the majority opinion:

We consequently conclude that the Constitution permits judges to take realistic account of the particular defendant’s mental capacities by asking whether a defendant who seeks to conduct his own defense at trial is mentally competent to do so. That is to say, the Constitution permits States to insist upon representation by counsel for those competent enough to stand trial under Dusky but who still suffer from severe mental illness to the point where they are not competent to conduct trial proceedings by themselves.


Indiana has also asked us to adopt, as a measure of a defendant’s ability to conduct a trial, a more specific standard that would “deny a criminal defendant the right to represent himself at trial where the defendant cannot communicate coherently with the court or a jury.” We are sufficiently uncertain, however, as to how that particular standard would work in practice to refrain from endorsing it as a federal constitutional standard here. We need not now, and we do not, adopt it.

Indiana has also asked us to overrule Faretta. We decline to do so. * * *

For these reasons, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Indiana is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

[More] Here is Gannett News Service's Maureen Groppe's early coverage, posted at noon. It begins:
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a decision by the Indiana Supreme Court that a man with a history of mental illness should have been allowed to represent himself at trial.

In 7-2 decision, the high court said states may prevent defendants from serving as their own attorney even if they are found competent to stand trial.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 19, 2008 10:28 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions