Cooper v. Oklahoma, 517 U.S. 348, 6 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 348 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

Incidents that occurred during the trial,2 as well as the sordid history of petitioner's childhood that was recounted during the sentencing phase of the proceeding, were consistent with the conclusions expressed by the expert. In a final effort to protect his client's interests, defense counsel moved for a mistrial or a renewed investigation into petitioner's competence. After the court summarily denied these motions, petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death.

In the Court of Criminal Appeals, petitioner contended that Oklahoma's presumption of competence, combined with its statutory requirement that a criminal defendant establish incompetence by clear and convincing evidence, Okla. Stat., Tit. 22, 1175.4(B) (1991),3 placed such an onerous burden on him as to violate his right to due process of law. The appellate court rejected this argument. After noting that it can be difficult to determine whether a defendant is malingering, given "the inexactness and uncertainty attached to [competency] proceedings," the court held that the standard was justified because the "State has great interest in assuring its citizens a thorough and speedy judicial process," and because a "truly incompetent criminal defendant, through his attorneys and experts, can prove incompetency with relative ease." 889 P. 2d 293, 303 (1995). We granted certiorari to review the Court of Criminal Appeals' conclusion that appli-2 Petitioner did not communicate with or sit near defense counsel during the trial. Through much of the proceedings he remained in prison overalls, crouching in the fetal position and talking to himself.

3 Section 1175.4(B) provides, in relevant part: "The court, at the hearing on the application [for determination of competency], shall determine, by clear and convincing evidence, if the person is incompetent. The person shall be presumed to be competent for the purposes of the allocation of the burden of proof and burden of going forward with the evidence."

Section 1175.4 was amended in 1991, during the pretrial period of petitioner's prosecution. The amendment did not alter the text of subsection B.

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