Plain Trials: Culture and Competence in the Courtroom
Keywords:Competence to stand trial, culture and competence, Plain people and competence
The presence of Plain people in the justice system historically involves civil disputes. A more recent trend is the presence of Plain people as criminal defendants. In tandem with their appearance in criminal proceedings is the question for some of competence to stand trial. Competence assumes a factual understanding of the legal process, the ability to assist counsel in preparing a defense, and an appreciation of the charges and case. In the decades since the Supreme Court ruled on competence, the evolution of definition, criteria, and assessment have focused on mental capacity and deficits. The contribution of culture has been marginalized. This article reviews the elements of competence to stand trial and restoration of that competence when it is lacking and applies them to Plain people. Two case studies demonstrate the impact of culture. Rarely considered, culture can have a profound influence on comprehension and appreciation of the judicial process and exacerbates issues of competency for a defendant who presents with cognitive impairments.
Copyright (c) 2022 James A Cates
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