Mental Health Supreme Court Cases

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    Mental Health has been a brought into a lot of Supreme Court Cases over the past decades. This has really become an issue and has brought in many amendments into play. The 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th amendments are just some of the amendments used in Supreme Court Cases. Jackson v. Indiana, Kansas v. Hendricks, and Dusky v. United States were just some of the Mental Health cases that were brought to the Supreme Court. Mental Health is also something we will talk about in this topic and why it’s necessary for all defendants to understand their rights especially if they have some mental illness.

    Mental Health

In some cases an individual is considered an imminent danger to themselves or others, they have the right to due process, representation and appeals just like anyone else, though appeals can be civil commitment or involuntary treatment.

    Jackson v. Indiana was known as a “landmark” case only because The United States had violated due processing for Jackson who was committed for a indefinite period of time. Then he was also, a deaf-mute in which he was not able to read or write. In which, he was going to need a lawyer and needed to take the competency evaluation to see if he was fit to stand trial. “An individual found incompetent will nevertheless be detained for a ‘reasonable period of time necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that he will attain that capacity in the foreseeable future.’” (Supreme Court pg 17). This quote here is basically telling us that since Jackson had a mental illness and not capable of standing trial. So there for he was put into a “Indiana Department of Mental Health for treatment until he was determined to be ‘sane.’” (Jackson v. Indiana). But, his lawyer wanted to have a new trial because there was no evidence that his client was insane and that he was getting a life sentence in a mental hospital without being convicted of a crime. But, the motion was denied by the Supreme Court of Indiana.

The Court therefore said that since Jackson wasn’t considered mentally ill according to their standards then he would be able to be released at any time. The Court also said that “[a] person charged by a State with a criminal offense who is committed solely on account of his incapacity to proceed to trial cannot be held more than the reasonable period of time necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that he will attain that capacity in the foreseeable future. If it is determined that this is not the case, then the State must either institute the customary civil commitment proceeding that would be required to commit indefinitely any other citizen, or release the defendant. Furthermore, even if it is determined that the defendant probably soon will be able to stand trial, his continued commitment must be justified by progress toward that goal.” (Jackson v. Indiana). They finally decided that holding people for an indefinite period of time was unjust. But, it was too late for that since Theon Jackson was already held for an indefinite period of time without getting another trial. It was only because there was a lack of due process that’s why the Court concluded with this statement. The Court decision to put Jackson in a mental institution without being committed of a crime or being put in there because he was unable to comprehend why he was being arrested. Therefore, the Justices were not fair or just towards Mr. Jackson having him spend years in a mental institution because he was a dead-mute person who couldn’t read or write with a low I.Q

Kansas v. Hendricks case was one that used the Kansas’ Sexually Violent Predator Act. In which, states the procedure for civil commitment of a person due to a “mental illness”. Hendricks was sent to jail because he sexually molested children at different period of times. After, he was then released after serving ten years of his sentencing. He was clinically diagnosed as a pedophile and believed that he couldn’t be successfully treated. Pedophilia is defined as a mental abnormality under the Act, so they ordered that Hendrick's be civilly committed. In the case of Hendricks trial the jury found him to be a sexual violent predator and he then appealed their claim. The Kansas Supreme Court held the Act unconstitutional.

The Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act is penalized when a person is sentenced and tried as a predator and allows his release. But, when the offender is charged and sentenced for life in prison then the Act is unnecessary.  But, some have argued that “the statue is really a further criminal penalty disguised as a civil commitment” (Kansas v. Hendricks pg 2). The actions of the Court were brilliant and fast because he needed to be put away for sexually abusing children and shouldn’t be set free from prison but, also putting him in a mental institution was also a good option. But, it feels as though that the Court might have done double jeopardy in which they did put him in the mental institution for committing the same crime he was charged for. Double jeopardy clearly states the prosecution of a person twice for the same offense in which, Mr. Hendricks had been in.

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Mental Health Supreme Court Cases. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved February 22, 2024 , from

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