Law & Psychiatry: “A Fool for a Client?” Mental Illness and the Right of Self-Representation


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Abstract

Does the Constitution require a trial court to allow an obviously impaired man to represent himself? This column discusses the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Indiana v. Edwards, which allows states to limit a defendant's right to self-representation when the individual lacks the mental capacity to conduct a trial defense unless represented. Previous cases bearing on the decision are discussed, including Dusky v. U.S. in 1960, which set the standard for competence to stand trial; Faretta v. California in 1975, which established the right of criminal defendants to represent themselves; and Godinez v. Moran in 1993, which upheld the Dusky standard for trial-related competence.

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