How State Psychiatric Hospitals Restore The ‘Competence’ Of Defendants Unfit To Stand Trial

The teen accused of carrying out the Santa Fe High School mass shooting was found incompetent to stand trial for now – a status usually limited to someone experiencing severe mental illness.

By Terri LangfordNovember 5, 2019 1:15 pm,

A Texas teen accused of killing 10 people last year at Santa Fe High School near Houston remains in custody after three psychiatric experts all agreed he is not competent to stand trial at this time. His trial is scheduled for February, and in the meantime, he will go to a state psychiatric hospital for treatment and so-called competency restoration. But that process is unknown to many, and is an important part of the Texas criminal justice system’s relationship with the state hospital system.

Austin defense attorney Keith Hampton doesn’t represent the teen in this case, but Hampton has worked with defendants who’ve been declared incompetent before. He says the law deems someone “incompetent” if they don’t have a rational understanding of the judicial process or can’t effectively consult with their lawyer. He says someone in that situation is usually either “severely mentally ill or [has] a profound intellectual disability.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How the teen will likely be treated at Vernon State Hospital where he’ll receive medication and legal advice

– How a judge’s declaration of incompetence triggers the involvement of the state hospital system

– What happens to defendants who can’t be restored to competency

– How incompetency is different than a plea of insanity


Written by Caroline Covington.