Legislature(1995 - 1996)

1996-05-01 House Journal

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1996-05-01                     House Journal                      Page 4202
SB 321                                                                       
The following, which was advanced to third reading from the April 30,          
1996, calendar (page 4161), was read the third time:                           

1996-05-01                     House Journal                      Page 4203
SB 321                                                                       
HOUSE CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 321(JUD)                                         
An Act relating to incompetency to stand trial.                               
Representative Toohey rose to a point of order regarding inappropriate         
The Speaker cautioned the member.                                              
The question being:  Shall HCS SB 321(JUD) pass the House?  The                
roll was taken with the following result:                                      
HCS SB 321(JUD)                                                                
Third Reading                                                                  
Final Passage                                                                  
YEAS:  27   NAYS:  10   EXCUSED:  0   ABSENT:  3                             
Yeas:  Austerman, Barnes, Bunde, G.Davis, Foster, Grussendorf,                 
Hanley, Ivan, Kelly, Kohring, Kott, Long, Martin, Masek, Moses,                
Mulder, Nicholia, Ogan, Parnell, Phillips, Porter, Rokeberg, Sanders,          
Toohey, Vezey, Williams, Willis                                                
Nays:  Brice, Brown, Davies, B.Davis, Elton, Finkelstein, James,               
Navarre, Robinson, Therriault                                                  
Absent:  Green, Kubina, Mackie                                                 
And so, HCS SB 321(JUD) passed the House.                                      
Representative Porter moved and asked unanimous consent that the               
House adopt the following letter of intent:                                    
The requirement that a defendant be mentally competent to stand trial          
does not mean that low intelligence or mental deficiency is enough to          
escape responsibility for criminal conduct.  Nor does bizarre, volatile        
and irrational behavior necessarily mean that a given individual is            
incompetent to stand trial.                                                    
A defendant need not have a complete understanding of legal nuances            
in order to understand the nature of the proceedings.  The ability to          
comprehend the significance of a trial and the defendant's relation to         
it is sufficient.  A defendant possesses a sufficient understanding of the     

1996-05-01                     House Journal                      Page 4204
SB 321                                                                       
criminal process if the defendant understands that the prosecutor has          
alleged that the defendant engaged in conduct against the criminal law,        
that the prosecutor will attempt to convince a judge or jury that the          
defendant engaged in that conduct, that witnesses will tell the judge          
and jury what they know about the alleged criminal conduct, that the           
judge or jury will listen to the witnesses and decide whether the              
defendant did what the prosecutor alleged, and that the defendant's            
attorney will attempt to persuade the judge or jury to the contrary.  A        
defendant understands the difference between a not guilty plea and             
a guilty plea if the defendant understands that a not guilty plea              
means the defendant is claiming the defendant did not do what the              
prosecutor is alleging and that a guilty plea means that the defendant         
is admitting that he or she did what the prosecutor is alleging.  An           
understanding of the plea of nolo contendere is not a requirement for          
competency.  The fact that defendant does not believe that the                 
consequences of being found guilty will occur does not render the              
person unable to understand what the possible consequences are.                
A defendant can rationally assist in the defense if the defendant can          
remember and discuss basic information coherently.  A defendant's              
inability to recall the facts surrounding the alleged offense does not         
necessarily lead to a finding of incompetence to stand trial.  Moreover,       
the fact that a defendant rambles or digresses during discussions with         
counsel does not mean he or she cannot adequately assist in the                
defense.  Competent defendants will on occasion ramble.  Counsel can           
focus discussions by interrupting the defendant or asking more direct          
A defendant can assist counsel even if the defendant's views are not           
consistent with the evidence or the most plausible explanation for the         
evidence.  Mentally competent individuals often advance versions of            
the facts which conflict with the state's evidence, even when the state's      
evidence of the defendant's guilt is overwhelming.  A defendant need           
not present consistent testimony in order to be capable of assisting in        
the defense.  All that is required is the defendant be able to confer          
coherently with counsel and provide necessary information.                     
The fact that a psychiatrist or defense counsel or judge thinks the            
defendant is taking positions adverse to his interests or is not acting in     
his or her best interest is insufficient to render a defendant incompetent     
to stand trial.  Defendants often take positions that their attorneys          

1996-05-01                     House Journal                      Page 4205
SB 321                                                                       
thinks are wrong-headed, and the fact that they make decisions which           
are contrary to their best interests does not render them incompetent to       
stand trial.  A person cannot be judged incompetent simply for                 
rejecting the advice of an attorney.  Many mentally competent                  
defendants distrust lawyers and the legal system.  Therefore, a                
defendant's refusal to cooperate with counsel does not render the              
defendant unable to assist in the defense unless the defendant's refusal       
is the product of the mental disease or defect.                                
Representative Brice objected.                                                 
The question being:  Shall the House letter of intent be adopted?              
The roll was taken with the following result:                                  
HCS SB 321(JUD)                                                                
Letter of Intent                                                               
YEAS:  33   NAYS:  5   EXCUSED:  0   ABSENT:  2                              
Yeas:  Austerman, Barnes, Bunde, B.Davis, G.Davis, Elton, Foster,              
Grussendorf, Hanley, Ivan, James, Kelly, Kohring, Kott, Long, Mackie,          
Martin, Masek, Moses, Mulder, Nicholia, Ogan, Parnell, Phillips,               
Porter, Robinson, Rokeberg, Sanders, Therriault, Toohey, Vezey,                
Williams, Willis                                                               
Nays:  Brice, Brown, Davies, Finkelstein, Navarre                              
Absent:  Green, Kubina                                                         
And so, the House letter of intent was adopted.                                
Representative Navarre gave notice of reconsideration of his vote on           
HCS SB 321(JUD).