Washington v. Ortiz-Abrego (Majority and Dissent)Annotate this Case
A jury found Alexander Ortiz-Abrego guilty on charges of child rape. The trial court held a contested competency hearing. The court determined that Ortiz-Abrego was incompetent during his trial, though various accommodations suggested by an expert who evaluated him midtrial could have helped him follow the proceedings. The court ordered a new trial. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court departed from the established competency standard by analyzing whether Ortiz-Abrego actually understood his trial and by injecting concepts from disability accommodations law. After its review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse the wide discretion appropriate to competency determinations. "This case is unusual in that the competency hearing took place after the trial concluded. Viewing the record in that context, the trial court's consideration of the defendant's observed behavior during trial, and its discussion of whether accommodations could have been made, do not reflect a departure from the established competency standard." Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court's ruling.