WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled that federal courts should not automatically suspend postconviction challenges from death row inmates who are mentally incompetent to help their lawyers. The decision left open the possibility that such suspensions may sometimes be warranted, but it said that they should not be indefinite.
“Where there is no reasonable hope of competence,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court, “a stay is inappropriate.”
The Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to put mentally incompetent defendants on trial because they cannot understand the proceedings against them or assist their lawyers. The court has also barred “carrying out a sentence of death upon a prisoner who is insane.”
Source: The New York Times, January 9, 2013