Forensic Psych

Practice Competency to Stand Trial and Mental Status at the Time of the Offense Reports

Did this as an assignment for my Forensic Assessment class this semester. It was kind of fun/interesting to do one of these yourself. Here is how I wrote mine. As always, this is MY work. Do not steal/plagiarize/copy. Thank you! This was really my first ever attempt at anything like this, so it is definitely no where near the standard of those who are forensic evaluators in the real world. 🙂 This is a fictional case by the way. Any resemblance to any real person is coincidental!

 

Competency to Stand Trial

Competency Status:  Ms. Smith stated that she did not know why the police brought her to the hospital or what her charges were. When her charges were stated to her, she incorrectly described Assault, but was able to correctly describe the charge of Arson. After explaining the charge of Assault, Ms. Smith was able to understand its significance. Upon hearing that the maximum penalty for her charges could be life imprisonment, Ms. Smith repeatedly said that a life sentence was “ridiculous” because her actions harmed no one and she was in the “prime” of her life. However, she did seem to understand that her sentence could be shorter than life imprisonment. Ms. Smith originally stated that her current stay in the hospital was her punishment, however, upon explanation, was able to understand what she could be sentenced to. Ms. Smith seemed to benefit from education about her charges and the potential sentencing. She was able to understand that there were different plea options. Ms. Smith was also able to accurately describe the basic duties and roles of courtroom personnel.

 

Ms. Smith stated that her attorney had done nothing for her as of yet, but she believed that his role was to talk to her, check on her, and do what she tells him to do. She stated that she was not sure if her attorney was for or against her. Ms. Smith stated that she wanted to talk to her attorney about making a plea that was “not life in jail,” which suggests that she understands the basic purpose of her defense attorney. Ms. Smith was not distracted, was able to listen well, and gave relevant responses during the evaluation. She referenced television when explaining the role of the prosecutor, but understood that television shows are not the same as real life. In addition to this, she was able to provide a consistent account of the events related to the alleged offenses and willingly answered questions during the evaluation. Ms. Smith was able to describe behavior that is appropriate in the courtroom, such as being silent unless spoken to. She stated that the only instance in which she would struggle to remain calm in court is if someone was in her “personal space.” She was also aware that she was allowed to testify and that she was not allowed to lie in court. She stated that she could still lie in court, but, she acknowledged that if she was caught lying, the consequences “could be bad.”

 

Case Formulation:  Ms. Smith has an extensive psychiatric history, including the following diagnoses: Bipolar Disorder, suggesting that she may have intense mood swings; Schizoaffective Disorder, a disorder where she may have disturbances in her mood and may have distortions in perception; Psychotic Disorder, suggesting that she may have distorted perceptions; Borderline Personality Disorder, suggesting her behavior, moods, and relationships with others may be unstable; and, lastly, Major Depressive Disorder, which is a disorder where she would experience a very low mood that caused her to have difficulty finding enjoyment in life’s activities. Ms. Smith has been involved in two physical altercations with male patients while hospitalized. She was noncompliant with her antipsychotic and mood stabilizing medications after first being hospitalized, but records indicate that she began to willingly take them. During Ms. Smith’s interview, there were no signs of mood instability or distorted perceptions that interfered with her attention or ability to answer questions posed to her. She was attentive and able to relevantly respond to questions posed to her. She was oftentimes not factually knowledgeable about court activities and personnel, but after education she was able to understand. Ms. Smith expressed the need for “personal space” in order to remain calm in the court room, and was calm during the evaluation where there was no violation of her personal space. Ms. Smith responded calmly to all questions as well. Her behavior during the evaluation suggests that her mental health would not likely interfere with her courtroom behavior.

 

Ms. Smith’s calm and attentive interaction during the evaluation may suggest that she will be able to display similar behavior when working with her attorney, during the courtroom proceedings, and when testifying, if she indeed testifies. Ms. Smith expressed the idea that she was not sure if she would receive a fair trial or not because it would depend on what kind of day the judge was having. This is not a distorted perception like one would see in mental illness, but rather a matter of knowledge. Ms. Smith would likely understand this is not the case if it was explained to her and this, therefore, would not likely interfere with the court proceedings or with her ability to work with her attorney either. After education, Ms. Smith was able to both factually and rationally understand the information provided regarding her case, her charges, and court proceedings. It is clear that while Ms. Smith has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses over the years, she does not appear to be experiencing any symptoms of those illnesses that would interfere with her capability of understanding each part of the legal process upon discussion with her attorney.

 

Conclusion:  Based upon the abovementioned information, it is the evaluator’s expert opinion that Ms. Smith is competent to stand trial at this time under her current medicinal and therapeutic care. No further treatment is necessary.

 

Mental Status at the Time of the Offense

Case Formulation:  Records indicate that Ms. Smith has a history of mental illness. Ms. Smith has been diagnosed with various illnesses at different times, all indicating potential mood instability and occasional perceptual distortions. For example, reports indicate that Ms. Smith has expressed the desire to commit suicide because of continued “persecution and abuse” by others. Based on available records and an interview with Ms. Smith’s mother, it appears that Ms. Smith has previously been involved in physical altercations (e.g., in her school-age years Ms. Smith’s mother reported that Ms. Smith was in fights at school with other young people, and on two previous hospital stays she had physical altercations with a male patient). Ms. Smith claims that the physical altercations occurred because she needed to stand up for herself or someone else (e.g., one altercation during the latest hospital stay occurred because she believed the male patient was “hurting” one of the female patients). According to available records, Ms. Smith was taking her psychotropic medicine during the latest hospital stay. Interviews conducted with Ms. Smith’s outpatient psychologist indicate that in the 14 days before the alleged offenses Ms. Smith was uncooperative, stating that he had some “difficulty interacting” with her, and she requested a female psychologist, stating that he was “being just like the others.” According to available records and interviews with Ms. Smith, she was abused by adult males in her youth, and was abused by her male romantic partner before entering the battered woman’s shelter, where she had been staying approximately one month before the alleged offenses. Available records indicate that Ms. Smith previously had no incidents with anyone at the battered woman’s shelter, but was described as “jumpy.” There are no available records to suggest that her mood was not stable or that she was experiencing any distorted perceptions of reality around the time of the alleged offenses.

 

It appears as though Ms. Smith’s previous abuse contributed to her “jumpy” behavior and distrust of others around the time of the alleged offenses. Records indicate that Ms. Smith’s mental illness involved distorted perceptions regarding “persecution and abuse” by others. When Ms. Smith was asked about Mr. Daniels, she stated that he was a “lovely, lovely man,” but also stated that he reminded her of someone her mother used to know. Ms. Smith reported that she had been abused by several of her mother’s romantic partners. Records do not indicate whether Ms. Smith was on any medication at the time of the alleged offenses. In an interview with Ms. Smith, she did indicate that she had four glasses of wine the night of the alleged offenses, but had not taken any drugs and it appears as though, according to Ms. Smith, that she was not taking any psychotropic medication at the time. Ms. Smith indicates that she drinks regularly, but never more than four glasses of wine. It is, therefore, unlikely that this amount of the substance or a combination of substances would result in paranoia or violence. There is no evidence to suggest that Ms. Smith’s mood was not stable or that she was experiencing any distortion of reality around the time of the alleged Assault. Additionally, according to available records, Ms. Smith had previously been involved in other physical altercations only after some type of provocation.

 

Records indicate that Ms. Smith has been diagnosed with mental illnesses that suggests symptoms such as mood instability and distorted perceptions, especially regarding “persecution and abuse” by others. Available records also indicate that Ms. Smith has been abused by others. In addition, available records suggest that around the time of the alleged Arson offense Ms. Smith was overheard stating “they aren’t going to make me leave again without knowing how I feel about it…” Ms. Smith has reported that she consumed four glasses of wine on the night of the alleged Arson, but reported that she had not had any drugs or taken any psychotropic medications recently. It is, therefore, unlikely that this amount of the substance or a combination of substances would result in paranoia or violence. Ms. Smith stated in an interview that she was aware of the shelter’s no-violence policy and the consequences for violating that policy. The alleged Assault occurred around 10:30PM while the alleged Arson occurred several hours later around 2:00AM. Around the time of the alleged Arson, Mrs. Douglass reportedly heard Ms. Smith state, “I’ll show them….they’re supposed to help us…where else will I go?” There are no available records that suggest that Ms. Smith has a history of fire setting, and available records suggest that she has no history of unprovoked violence. It appears as though Ms. Smith’s mood instability was evident on the evening of the alleged Arson, however, police records indicate Ms. Smith, on that same evening, was reported as saying, “I know what’s coming” before the police arrived and she then reportedly complied with the officer’s requests while mumbling.

 

Conclusion:  Based on the available and abovementioned information, it is the expert opinion of the undersigned that Ms. Smith was not suffering from severe symptoms of mental illness at the time of the alleged Assault offense or the alleged Arson offense that prevented her from being able to appreciate the character, nature and consequences of her actions, from being able to resist committing the crimes she is being charged with, or from being able to distinguish right from wrong. She lacks both the cognitive and volitional prongs necessary and, therefore, does not meet the requirements to raise the insanity defense.

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