Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Re Alejandro G. (Cal. Ct. App. - April 25, 2012)

Alejandro is under 18 years old and is caught with a gun.  You're not allowed to possess one when you're a minor.  So off to trial you go.  The only relevant question (on appeal, anyway) being whether he was competent to stand trial.

Justice Huffman's opinion says that Alejandro's of average intelligence, with no disabilities.  When I read the opinion and learn what Alejandro has to say about his understanding of the criminal justice system, it seems fairly general, but what he says is indeed consistent with potentially being competent to stand trial.

But what I really would like to know is how old Alejandro is.  Justice Huffman doesn't say.  It's very possible that Alejandro is 16 or so -- he was sitting in a car, near a pack of cigarettes -- and his answers when being examined for competence are probably what you'd typically get from a n'er do well of his age and disposition.  If so, I have no problem whatsoever finding that he was competent; indeed, my reaction to the opinion was generally:  "What's all the fuss about?  This guy is obviously competent.  I can't believe the experts says it's close."

But it's also possible that he's, like, 12.  Or even younger.  His answers are also consistent with that.

So if we're going to say that someone's of average intelligence, when you're evaluating competence, it seems pretty important to say how old that person is.  "Average" for whom.

So I'd add that to this opinion.  Just so we know all the relevant details.