Instead of a full day of testimony last Saturday, jurors in the trial against Casey Anthony were given the weekend off due to a “legal issue” that came up. Monday, it was apparent that the “legal issue” was the subject of Anthony’s competency to proceed with the trial.
Anthony faces first-degree murder charges in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee three years ago. If convicted, she could receive the death penalty. The jurors in the case were chosen from Hillsborough County due to the level of pre-trial media coverage in the Orlando area, where Anthony lived.
Anthony’s defense attorneys told the judge on Saturday they did not believe their client was competent, based on privileged discussions with her. The motion they filed on Saturday did not disclose any particulars.
The judge asked three psychologists to evaluate Anthony over the weekend to determine if she could comprehend the charges against her and the possible penalties, and if she could testify relevantly if called to the stand.
In criminal law, a competency evaluation is a basic assessment of whether the defendant can understand the charges and rationally participate in her own defense. After the experts evaluate the defendant, they report their findings to the court along with their opinions on competency. Based upon those reports, the judge will rule on the defendant’s competency.
This determination of competency is different than a determination by a jury that a defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity (which relates to the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the crime).
Prosecutors claim that Anthony suffocated her toddler with duct tape and then lied to friends, family and authorities that the child had been kidnapped. Caylee’s skeletal remains were found months later. The defense now maintains that the child accidentally drowned and that Anthony panicked and covered up the child’s death out of fear.