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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mentally ill lose right to self-representation

Filed at 10:19 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that criminal
defendants with a history of mental illness do not always have the
right to represent themselves, even though they have been judged
competent to stand trial.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, say states can give trial judges
discretion to prevent someone from acting as his own lawyer if they
are concerned that the trial could turn into a farce.

The decision comes in the case of an Indiana man who was convicted of
attempted murder and other charges in 2005 for a shooting six years
earlier at an Indianapolis department store.

The case is Indiana v. Edwards, No. 07-208. NACDL filed and amicus
curiae brief in support of neither party arguing that if an
unrepresented defendant is incapable of presenting a reasoned defense
due to mental infirmity, then he is not competent to represent
himself. The opinion is here:
http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/07-208.pdf
NACDL's amicus brief, authored by Keven P. Martin, Abigail K. Hemani
and Dahlia S. Fetouh, of Goodwin Proctor LLP in Boston, and William F.
Sheehan in Washington, is here:
http://www.nacdl.org/public.nsf/newsissues/amicus_attachments/$FILE/IndEd_Amicus.pdf

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, say states can give trial judges
discretion to prevent someone from acting as his own lawyer if they
are concerned that the trial could turn into a farce.

The decision comes in the case of an Indiana man who was convicted of
attempted murder and other charges in 2005 for a shooting six years
earlier at an Indianapolis department store. [Mark Godsey]

The case is Indiana v. Edwards, No. 07-208. NACDL filed and amicus
curiae brief in support of neither party arguing that if an
unrepresented defendant is incapable of presenting a reasoned defense
due to mental infirmity, then he is not competent to represent
himself. The opinion is here:
http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/07-208.pdf
NACDL's amicus brief, authored by Keven P. Martin, Abigail K. Hemani
and Dahlia S. Fetouh, of Goodwin Proctor LLP in Boston, and William F.
Sheehan in Washington, is here:
http://www.nacdl.org/public.nsf/newsissues/amicus_attachments/$FILE/IndEd_Amicus.pdf

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