Commonwealth v. Vailes

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Competence to Stand Trial Standard

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Commonwealth v. Ernest L. Vailes
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
360 Mass. 522; 275 N.E.2d 893; 1971 Mass.
September 13, 1971, Argued
December 2, 1971, Decided

Indictment found and returned in the Superior Court on July 10, 1970.
The case was tried before Brogna, J.

DISPOSITION: Judgment affirmed.

HEADNOTES: Practice, Criminal, Defendant’s competency to stand trial, Fair trial, Judicial
discretion. Constitutional Law, Due process of law.

SYLLABUS: At a criminal trial, failure to order an evidentiary hearing on the defendant’s mental competency to stand trial, and denial of motions for a mistrial and for committment of the defendant to a State hospital for observation on the ground that he was “out of touch with reality,” did not show abuse of the judge’s discretion or violation of the defendant’s due process rights either under art. 12 of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution of the Commonwealth or under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, where it appeared that he had been observed by psychiatrists for two periods of thirty-five days each during the six months preceding the trial, that both psychiatric reports concluded that he understood the nature of the charges against him and would be able to assist in his own defence, that he answered responsively when questioned by the [***2] judge, and that, although during the selection of the jury the defendant buttoned and unbuttoned his shirt, removed his jacket, and appeared to be falling asleep, he behaved normally during the rest of the trial. [524-525]

COUNSEL: Reuben Goodman for the defendant.
William A. Doherty, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

JUDGES: Tauro, C.J., Cutter, Reardon, Braucher, & Hennessey, JJ.

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