Justices Weigh Definitions of Competency

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The US Supreme Court took up a question that has plagued trial courts across the country. If a person is sane enough to stand trial, does that mean he is mentally competent to represent himself?

After five years and three findings of mental incompetency, Ahmad Edwards was finally judged to be competent to stand trial on attempted murder charges, but he wanted to represent himself. The Indiana trial judge ruled that Edwards was too disturbed and incoherent to act as his own lawyer. The state supreme court said Edwards had been denied his constitutional right to represent himself and the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the case Wednesday.

Lawyer Mark Stancil, representing Edwards, says the Constitution protects the defendant's rights at trial, not the states' rights.

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, says the state has an interest in the public perception of a fair process.

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