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Christian Counseling - Fit to Stand Trial

Many people have been watching and/or following the murder trial of Casey Anthony, who is accused of taking the life of her 2-year-old daughter. Recently a question came up during the trial regarding her seemingly erratic behavior. It seemed to concern the defense enough that they had Ms. Anthony examined to determine whether she was fit to stand trial. While some may believe that this was some type of ploy by the defense to gain a mistrial, the concept of fitness for trial is an important one to consider.

In order to be fit to stand trial, the defendant has to be found to be physically, cognitively, and psychologically able. What this means is that they must be able to:

1. understand the nature of the charges against them.
2. understand the possible consequences they face.
3. participate and communicate effectively with counsel in their defense.

For example, a person who is in a coma would be unfit to stand trial. As a result, they would not be tried until which time they were physically able to face the charges against them. Someone who is cognitively disabled may be determined to be unfit to stand trial due to cognitive limitations that would keep them from meeting the three standards discussed above. Finally, someone may also be determined to be psychologically disabled (i.e. suffering from certain symptoms of schizophrenia) to the point that they also would not meet the criteria outlined above. It was fears of psychologically disability that prompted the evaluation of Casey Anthony last weekend. She was determined by several mental health professionals to be competent to stand trial. As a result, the trial continued.

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