Criminal Law – Insane Persons – Competency to Stand Trial

Mental unsoundness in a person accused of a crime raises two distinct legal questions. One is the question of the individual’s responsibility for his behavior and the other is the question of the individual’s competency to enter into the legal procedures of trial or punishment. In recent years considerable attention has been given to matters of responsibility, but relatively little attention has been paid to the problem of incompetency and especially to the consequences of incompetency proceedings. In order to analyze and evaluate the operations of the Michigan law in the area of incompetency to stand trial, two psychiatrists joined two law students to conduct field research at Ionia State Hospital to which all persons found incompetent to stand trial are committed.

This comment reports and analyzes the results of this field research. Attention is given also to the merits of alternative procedures for the commitment and treatment of incompetents.