Who bears the burden of proving that a defendant is not competent to stand trial? Last week the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa noted that the answer to this question “has not been firmly established,” pointing to the following circuit split:
In United States v. Whittington, 586 F.3d 613 (8th Cir. 2009), the Court noted a circuit split on this issue. The Fourth and Tenth Circuits place the burden of proof on the defendant to prove incompetence, while the Third, Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits place the burden of proof on the Government to prove competence. Id. at 617. The Eleventh Circuit has taken the position that the burden falls on the party making the motion to determine competency, and the Second Circuit has declined to reach the issue, noting that "the allocation of the burden of proof to the defendant will affect competency determinations only in a narrow class of cases where the evidence is in equipoise." Id. at 618. While noting that "[t]he guidance of the Supreme Court, and the recent precedent of this circuit, support the government's position that the burden is on the defendant to prove incompetence by a preponderance of the evidence," the Court in Whittington concluded that it "need not address the burden of proof issue further because we conclude the district court's finding of competency in this case did not depend upon the allocation of the burden of proof." Id.
United States v. Contreras, Case No. CR11-0168 (N.D. Iowa Oct. 4, 2012).