In the United States, it is unconstitutional for someone to stand trial if they are found to be mentally incompetent. In one Ohio murder case court officials are trying to determine if a 17-year-old boy is competent to stand trial for allegedly killing three people last month.
According to police, the 17-year-old boy entered a high school cafeteria on Feb. 27 and began shooting. He allegedly killed three students and wounded two others. He was charged with three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault.
A hearing was scheduled for April 3 to determine if the 17 year old should be tried as an adult. However, the hearing has been postponed after a judge ordered that the young man undergo a mental competency exam. A competency hearing has been scheduled for April 9. They will later decide whether or not the 17 year old should be tried as an adult.
Under Ohio law, a child that suffers from a mental illness or an intellectual or developmental disability is not legally competent to stand trial. A child can only be found competent if they understand the seriousness of the charges against them. They must also understand the court proceedings, be able to contribute to their defense and understand any potential consequences.
It is not clear how this specific case will turn out, but it illustrates the protections that are in place for those who are accused of a serious crime. If a person is not competent, they will be committed to a psychiatric facility where they can get the treatment they need before they are allowed to stand trial.
Source: USA Today, "Competency exam ordered for Ohio school shooting suspect," March 28, 2012