AuthorFanniff, Amanda Marie
AdvisorBecker, Judith V.
Committee ChairBecker, Judith V.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractJuveniles' right to be competent to stand trial has been increasingly recognized since In re Gault (1967) granted juveniles essential due process rights. One formulation of competence proposes two facets: competence to assist counsel (e.g., understanding the roles of legal actors, the adversarial system,) and decisional competence (Bonnie, 1992). The first goal of this project was to investigate the psychometric properties and relevant correlates of one instrument to assess competence to assist counsel, the Competence Assessment for Standing Trial for Defendants with Mental Retardation (CAST-MR; this study used only the first two scales). Results indicated acceptable internal consistency, although concerns were raised regarding the appropriateness of some items. Scores were related to age and intelligence, as in prior research. No relationship was found with most mental health scale scores, prior legal system involvement, contact with defense counsel, or learning problems. The second goal of the study centered on decisional competence and the role of immaturity; specifically whether age is associated with immature judgment (assessed using the Judgment in Legal Contexts instrument) and if immature judgment predicts decisions made about one's own case. The current study found few significant relationships between age or intelligence and variables coded from the JILC (including authority compliance, risk recognition, risk appraisal, future recognition, resistance to peer influence). Additionally, age and the perceived strength of evidence were not predictive of individuals' decisions to confess, to fully disclose to defense counsel, or to accept a plea bargain. Juveniles who had confessed scored higher on future recognition, those who fully disclosed to their attorney scored lower on authority compliance, and those who would accept a plea bargain scored higher on risk recognition and appraisal. While the results were modest, they suggest that immature performance on a judgment measure may predict individuals' legal decision-making. If a juvenile fails to appreciate the potential consequences of legal decisions, his or her decisional competence may be questioned. Generally, immaturity may need to be recognized as a basis for findings of incompetence if performance on relevant skills is shown to improve with age and immature performance is shown to interfere with competency.