Expert Advice from Forensic Evaluators

Competency Q&A

This video is a Q&A in regard to the following topics:

  • How long should an evaluation should last?
  • Is there an effect on the validity of psychological testing when 3rd parties are in the room during the administration?
  • Sometimes examiners offer opinions that the examinee is “marginally competent.” Is that an acceptable opinion?
  • It seems that some examiners focus on the examinee’s understanding of the legal process and spend less time considering the examinee’s ability to consult with counsel. What do you make of this?
  • What is the difference between a rational understanding and factual understanding?
  • How can delusional thinking affect a defendant’s competence?
  • What about the issue of “parroting?” or the “veneer” or “patina” of competence? What are the implications of this for competence?
  • Is it important for the examiner to discuss the facts of the case with the defendant?
  • What about defendants from other countries, from other cultures? How might that impact assessment and consideration of competence to proceed?
  • What about defendants with strong religious beliefs that seem to affect their case decision making? For example, a belief that God will protect them from tough penalties, or God will give the client a jury who is understanding?
  • How much impairment is need to render a defendant incompetent? For example, what if the defendant is diagnosed with ADHD and has a hard time focusing on the case to the point that she wouldn’t be able to focus during trial…is that enough? What about depression/anxiety…the defendant keeps crying and she can’t stay on task during conversations with counsel…is that enough?
  • Are there limits as you see it in terms of what we can expect from a defendant? Similarly, can we expect the courtroom players to change their behavior in any way to suit a defendant’s needs? I have seen multiple evals suggesting that a courtroom be “slowed.” Is that a realistic expectation?