This is topic Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper deemed incompetent to stand trial in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

To visit this topic, use this URL:;f=2;t=036684

Posted by Narnia (Member # 1071) on :

Hrm. I don't know how I feel about this. I wonder how she feels about it?
Posted by James Tiberius Kirk (Member # 2832) on :
I just heard on MSNBC that her dad is just glad that Elizabeth won't have to testify. He also pointed out that this doesn't mean that he may someday be deemed competent (something I wouldn't know about *pokes lawyer types*)

Posted by Dagonee (Member # 5818) on :
In most states, assuming he's been indicted, the statute of limitations has been tolled and speedy trial calendars have been suspended, so he can be tried as soon as he's competent.

Of course, trying him later may be very difficult because of memory and such, but legally there's no bar.

Posted by advice for robots (Member # 2544) on :
So what happens to him? Does he go free?
Posted by Icarus (Member # 3162) on :
Yeah. And he gets a key to the Smart house.
Posted by dkw (Member # 3264) on :
He's been committed to a state hospital until he's competant to stand trial.
Posted by Scott R (Member # 567) on :
I've worked at the hospital he'll probably be sent to (Utah State Hospital). The forensic wing is indeed a subsection of the normal psychiatric hospital.
Posted by Jay (Member # 5786) on :
What does he need to be competent for? His trial is just a formality for the most part. Why should insanity get you off of a crime? Do the crime, do the time.
Posted by Scott R (Member # 567) on :
>>Why should insanity get you off of a crime? Do the crime, do the time.

He is doing the time, and it's not like they're erasing his history. They are waiting to get him into a mental state where he can understand his actions in light of the laws he broke.

Completely fair. Existence in the forensic wing of Utah State Hospital (if that's where he's bound) isn't a peach.

What happens if they get him sane? Is it just to prosecute someone who is, in effect, completely different from the person who commited the crime? If our justice system is corrective, and the defect has been corrected already, does the penalty still need to be applied?
Posted by Dagonee (Member # 5818) on :
Well, he could be tried and he could put forth an insanity defense.

Not trying someone incompetent is due process protection - one can't be said to have had meaningful due process if one cannot assist in ones own defense.

He can't be detained as incompetent to stand trial past the maximum sentence for the charged crime. There are periodic reviews. I'm not sure what happens if he's deemed to be permanently incompetent to stand trial.

If he is detained the maximum time allowed, he could still be civilly committed, but the standards are stricter.
Posted by Jim-Me (Member # 6426) on :
Originally posted by Scott R:
If our justice system is corrective, and the defect has been corrected already, does the penalty still need to be applied?

This is why Justice systems should not be considered "corrective" or "deterrent", but rather concerned with "justice".

C. S. Lewis was rather fond of pointing out that once you called imprisonment a "treatment" or a "corrective measure" then there was no limit to what could be done in the name of "healing".
Posted by Scott R (Member # 567) on :
>>C. S. Lewis was rather fond of pointing out that once you called imprisonment a "treatment" or a "corrective measure" then there was no limit to what could be done in the name of "healing".

CS Lewis is a apologetics genius. However, to rephrase and make a point, 'there's no limit to what can be done in the name of "justice."'
Posted by Dagonee (Member # 5818) on :
There are four traditional purposes of criminal punishment:

Retribution - the concept of paying a moral debt.

Incapacitation - prevents the person from repeating the behavior for some period of time.

Deterrence - deters people from committing certain acts. Specific deterrence relates to deterring the particular actor, general deterrence relates to deterring the populace as a whole.

Rehabilitation - treating underlying causes of certain behaviors.

A criminal punishment system that emphasizes the first will be called deontological; a system that emphasizes some combination of the other three will be called utilitarian.

Most real-world systems tend to have all four in some measure. Even heavily rehabilitative systems tend to use the retributive factor to put a limit on what can be done to achieve the utilitarian ends. For example, imprisonment until full rehabilitation is achieved would serve all three utilitarian purposes very well (as Jim-Me's reference to Lewis alluded to). However, most such systems would not allow this for non-violent first offenders.

The utilitarian justification for not holding people until fully rehabilitated is typically that the cost of detention until treatment (taking into account the negative effect on the detained as well as actual costs) outweighs the benefit for minor offenses, but to my mind this premise requires non-utilitarian foundational premises of some kind, which harken back to the idea of moral weight to the crimes.

This reminds me, dkw, if you're reading this, you mentioned restorative justice theories to me once. Do you have any reccomended reading for getting a quick overview?

Posted by mothertree (Member # 4999) on :
I think that guy left a note on my car one time.
Posted by dkw (Member # 3264) on :
Changing Lenses by Howard Zehr is the “classic” text, and probably still the best overview of the theory.

This one by the same author would include more about how it’s actually being used today (it was written in 2002).

…. and you can get both of them together for just $15.82!
Posted by Dagonee (Member # 5818) on :
Oh, thanks. Those look good. *adds them to the list with the Chesterton stuff*

Shorter than I thought they'd be, too. [Smile]
Posted by dkw (Member # 3264) on :
Well, you said you wanted a quick overview. I could reccommend longer books if it would make you feel more lawyerly. [Wink]
Posted by OlavMah (Member # 756) on :
People who are incompetent, or even people who are competent to stand trial but win on the insanity defense (which is really, really rare, no matter what the entertainment industry would have you believe) fall into an interesting netherworld in the legal system. They have to go to an institution where their treatment regimen may actually be longer and more restrictive than their jail sentence would have been. For example, someone who is a diagnosed kleptomaniac who is able to get off on a count of shoplifting because of their insanity could be put in an institution indefinitely, even if their jail term for theft would only have been for, say, a year.

So, I don't think Mr. Mitchell is "getting off easy." He's incarcerated, for all intents and purposes, and the day that he does regain capacity is the day he goes to trial and faces prison time. Together, that's a looooong period of time to have one's freedom taken away.

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2