Volume 26, Issue 2 (April 1981)
A Study of Criminal Defendants Referred for Multiple Psychiatric Examinations regarding Their Competency to Stand Trial
One of the mainstays of forensic psychiatry has been the determination of a defendant's competency to stand trial. Competency to stand trial is based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a defendant must have sufficient ability to understand court proceedings. Regardless of whether or not the defendant was mentally ill at the time a crime was committed or when charged, the court can try someone only if that person has the capacity to understand proceedings in order to defend himself. When there is any question as to the competency of the defendant, he is referred for psychiatric evaluation of competency. Very little research has been undertaken in the past to examine this clinically interesting group of subjects. A study was conducted to explore the characteristics of 137 defendants who had been charged and referred for evaluation at least twice to the Court Clinic of the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center Department of Psychiatry. It was expected that these would reflect the consequence of deinstitutionalization in New York State. Data were collected for each evaluation with regard to demographic characteristics, criminal history, and psychiatric history. Results are presented and discussed in light of the issue of deinstitutionalization. Note is made of the fact that only very small percentage of these patients have received outpatient psychiatric care. Suggestions for future research are offered.