TRIAL STAGES: Pretrial: Competence of the Accused


United States v. Barreto, 57 MJ 127 (question of whether an accused is mentally competent to stand trial is one of fact, and the military judge’s determination will be overturned on appeal only if it is clearly erroneous).

(an accused must have sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him in order to stand trial; however, the accused’s inability to remember the details of an offense does not, without more, compel a finding of incompetence).

(appellant’s amnesia did not preclude him from intelligently cooperating in his defense or taking the stand on his own behalf: (1) his amnesic condition did not impair his ability to rationally examine and assess the strength of the Government’s evidence against him; (2) the defense was provided with its own accident reconstruction expert and an independent investigator to assist in preparing a defense and evaluating the Government’s evidence; and (3) appellant was not precluded from providing his defense counsel with his knowledge of his character, propensities, driving habits, and previous experiences with his vehicle and the roadway involved in the incident, and identifying character witnesses to corroborate or otherwise testify to these matters on his behalf).

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