SCOTUS Hears Cases On Inmate Incompetence And Delayed Death Penalty Appeals.

The New York Times (10/10, A17, Liptak, Subscription Publication) reports, “In a pair of cases argued Tuesday, the Supreme Court considered what to do when people convicted of capital crimes are mentally incompetent and so unable to help their lawyers with challenges to their convictions and sentences.” The Times continues, “The lower courts in the two cases had imposed indefinite stays, saying the proceedings should wait until the prisoners regained their mental competency,” but, the Times reports, there “appeared to be little support among the justices for that approach. Some of them appeared to sense gamesmanship from defense lawyers effectively seeking to make sure that death sentences are never carried out.”

The AP (10/10, Holland) reports, “The Supreme Court seemed inclined Tuesday to eliminate the authority of federal judges to indefinitely delay a death row inmate’s federal appeals in the hope that the convict would become mentally competent enough to help his or her lawyer with the appeals.” While “inmates appealing state death sentences to federal court have a right to a lawyer,” so far “the courts have never said whether the inmates have to be mentally competent enough to help their lawyers with their federal appeals.” Notably, attorneys “on both sides cited a court filing by the American Psychiatric Association which said that up to 90 percent of competency cases are resolved in six to nine months.” The cases in question are Tibbals v. Carter, 11-218 and Ryan v. Gonzales, 10-930.

Related Links:

— “Supreme Court Considers Indefinite Stays of Execution, “Adam Liptak, The New York Times, October 9, 2012.

Posted in In The News.