Judge Rules Appeals Hearings Can't Be Indefinitely Postponed For Competency

Jan 8, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court says federal judges cannot indefinitely delay a death row inmate's federal appeals to see if the inmate can become mentally competent enough to help his attorney.

The high court unanimously ruled Tuesday against Arizona death row inmate Ernest Gonzales and Ohio death row inmate Sean Carter. Inmates appealing state death sentences to federal court have a right to an attorney. But the courts have never said whether they have to be mentally competent enough to help with their federal appeals. Gonzales and Carter wanted the high court to say federal judges have discretion to hold up proceedings indefinitely until the inmates are ready.