DUE DILIGENCE FOR DUE PROCESS AFTER DUSKY: THE “DARK FIGURE” OF THE INCOMPETENT AND NOT RESTORABLE DEFENDANT
It has been just over 60 years since the U.S. Supreme Court established the modern legal standard for competency in Dusky v. United States (1960). While there have been challenges and slight revisions to this landmark case, the standard retains its precedental value. Research is accumulating that analyzes not only the standard itself, but the methods that are used to meet the standard. This dissertation contributes to the current literature by assessing: (1) the history of competency decisions at the federal level (2) the current state of competency evaluations and competency restoration that guide the determination of competence to stand trial (CST); and (3) the ability of the competency process to provide proper due process for those deemed incompetent and not restorable. The purpose of this dissertation is to provide a legal discussion on whether current competency evaluation and the competency restoration process provide the proper due process for an incompetent defendant to stand trial.
This dissertation uses a qualitative, inductive, doctrinal methodology to analyze United States Federal District Court lawsuits in the Southern District of Texas brought by offenders on competency issues, largely petitioning for federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and 28 U.S.C. § 2235, claiming violations of their Fifth and/or Fourteenth Amendment right guaranteeing due process of law.
Results of the case review show most petitions challenging competency are denied by the U.S. District Court. Also of note is that the specific sliver of the population this dissertation speaks about (incompetent to stand trial and non-restorable) is seemingly never discussed at the federal level. Future studies should assess whether the issue of un-restorability is addressed at a different judicial level, or if there are no challenges brought by a population that is relatively small, but also a population that may be most susceptible to having their due process rights violated.