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Competence-to-Stand-Trial Evaluations of Geriatric Defendants

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: 2002 Pages: 252-256
Richard L. Frierson M.D.; Steven J. Shea Ph.D.; Mary E. Craig Shea Ph.D.
Date Published
5 pages
This descriptive study compares geriatric defendants found competent to stand trial with those found incompetent.
The study reviewed the records of 57 consecutive pretrial geriatric detainees who underwent competence-to-stand-trial evaluations. The review compared demographic and historical variables, mental status examination elements, and trial abilities. Deficits in orientation, memory, abstraction, concentration, calculation, and thought process were associated with incompetence. Deficits in orientation and memory correlated most highly. Trial-related deficits associated with incompetence included failure to understand Miranda warnings, legal charges, potential penalties, roles of court officers, pleas, plea-bargaining, and inability to consult with an attorney and be self-protective. The relatively high rate of incompetence among those over 65 has implications for the future in forensic mental health systems. Because the U.S. population is aging, the number of incompetent geriatric defendants can also be expected to increase. This will present unique challenges to health care delivery systems. Tables, references