Competency of a Defendant in Utah Criminal Law

A judge recently determined that a 29-year-old Utah man is still incompetent to stand trial for the 2009 shooting deaths of his parents. The man faces first-degree felony aggravated murder charges for killing his parents in October of 2009, but three mental health evaluations in 2010 revealed that the man was not competent to stand trial.

The Utah Code of Criminal Procedure defines an incompetent person as someone who is suffering from a mental disorder or mental retardation resulting in:

  1. An inability to have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against the defendant or of the punishment specified for the offense charged; or
  2. An inability to consult with defense counsel and to participate in the proceedings against the defendant with a reasonable degree of rational understanding.

It is important to note that incompetency involves the defendant’s ability to undergo trial and is distinct from the “insanity defense” which deals with a defendant’s state of mind during the alleged crime.

The Utah Administrative Code requires that all proceedings be stayed against a person if a hearing officer determines that the defendant may be mentally incompetent.

The next competency review for the Castle Dale man accused of killing his parents will be performed in early 2014.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, “Man charged with fatal shooting of parents remains incompetent,” Roxana Orellana, June 7, 2012

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