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Va. shooting suspect ruled incompetent

A Virginia judge has ruled that the man charged in the slayings of eight people in Appomattox County is incompetent to stand trial.

Appomattox County Circuit Court Judge Richard Blanton ordered last week that Christopher Speight be sent to a state psychiatric hospital. If he is found competent after treatment, Speight could stand trial for the January shooting deaths.

The judge had ordered a competency evaluation last month to determine whether the 40-year-old Speight is able to assist in his defense.

Speight faces three counts of capital murder and six other charges. He was arrested Jan. 20 after an overnight standoff with police at the home he shared with his sister and her family, who were among the eight people killed.

-- The News & Advance

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 30, 2010; 7:44 AM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse , Homicide , Updates , Virginia  
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This is one of the most bizarre legal concepts, and one I've never been able to fathom. Basically the court says on the one hand, the person is not competent. It follows that if the person is incompetent now, then they were weeks or months before that when they committed their crime. So they get sent to a psychiatric hospital where they can be made competent to stand trial. Shouldn't the question be not whether or not you can comprehend the trouble you're in after you're made "better," but whether or not you understood that what you were doing was wrong when you did it? never been able to understand this concept. to me, if we have to make you competent, that means you're incompetent, and how can you be tried in criminal court that being the case?

Posted by: red2million | June 30, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

This is one of the biggest fallacies of the U.S. legal system - if you're going to kill someone, just tell the judge "you didn't know any better" and you're off the hook.

Tell you what. Put them in jail with no outside contact for the rest of their lives with nothing more than bread and water for sustenance - but TELL THEM it's really the Hilton in Cabo. After all, they don't know any better, right? Problem solved!

Posted by: Josh_C | June 30, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Red2million: incompentent to stand trial is different than incompentent at the time of the offense. If you don't know what's going on around you right now, then the court can't get to determining if you knew what was going on then. Our legal system doesn't let courts make decisions about cases unless the parties know what is going on when the court makes those decisions. It really is two different things: compentency to stand trial is different than compentency at the time of the offense.

Posted by: rob47 | June 30, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

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