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Juvenile Competency Adjudication in California Criminal Court
Kriminologisches Journal (2014)
  • Michael W Hanley

Legal issues are examined vis-à-vis an empirical case study of a criminal judicial proceeding where an alleged juvenile offender was charged with serious crimes in an adult court venue. The issue litigated before a 12-member jury was not the substantive merits of guilt or innocence of the alleged criminal conduct, but whether the juvenile offender was statutorily and constitutionally competent to stand trial. The following is a succinct account of the procedural and substantive constitutional and statutory rules attributed to legal competency to stand trial and how they were recognized and applied in the government’s case against an alleged juvenile offender. The work presents the basic substantive and procedural rules of competency litigation in California state court and the extent to which these rules are shaped by federal constitutional mandates. The work gives an account of the testimonial evidence presented to the jury by three court-appointed psychologists and by a neuropsychologist who conducted quantitative testing upon the alleged offender prior to, and without knowledge of, the present litigation. At the trial, the defense presented the expert testimony of a Professor of Psychology & Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine, who was permitted to give an account of the empirical and clinical literature on juvenile adjudicative competency in the United States. The research psychologist demonstrated that the cognitive development of adolescents could adversely affect the ability of juveniles to understand and appreciate the nature of the criminal proceedings and rationally assist their lawyer in their own defense. The research psychologist was also permitted to present an “expert opinion” concerning the quality of the evaluations and findings of the three court appointed psychologists charged with determining the adjudicative competency of the juvenile defendant. The work also considers evidence of a surreptitious interview between two sheriff’s detectives and the alleged juvenile offender. This evidence was used by the prosecution to demonstrate the cognitive functioning of the alleged juvenile offender as it related to his legal competency to stand trial. Finally the work presents the jury’s verdict and some views expressed by jurors after the competency trial.

  • juvenile competency adjudication,
  • competency litigation,
  • criminal procedure,
  • participant observation,
  • competency to stand trial
Publication Date
Summer July, 2014
Citation Information
Michael W Hanley. "Juvenile Competency Adjudication in California Criminal Court" Kriminologisches Journal Vol. 46 Iss. 1 (2014)
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