Race and Gender Bias in Competency to Stand Trial Evaluations

Level of Education of Students Involved


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Holly Cross


Arts and Sciences


Forensic Psychology

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-27-2023


Competency to stand trial (CST) is a due process right guaranteed by the 14th amendment. As a result of the Supreme Court Case Dusky v. United States (1960), CST is defined as a defendant’s abilities to rationally and factually understand trial proceedings, as well as consult with their attorney. Psycho-legal scholars suggest that the United States has entered a “competency crisis”—defined by increasing orders for CST evaluations, an increased finding of incompetency, and delays in CST evaluations and restoration services. The escalating increase for referrals on CST evaluations has impacted the process of legal proceedings and due process rights in many states, potentially including Indiana. CST has been the most common type of evaluation within forensic psychology, and there have been numerous articles investigating potential racial and gender bias in CST referrals, reports, and outcomes (Cooper & Zapf, 2003; Dirks-Linhorst, 2018; Judd & Parker, 2018; Kois, et al., 2012; MacCallum, et al., 2015, Paradis, et al., 2016; Pierelli, et al., 2011, among others). Previous research suggests that within CST cases in the U.S., race/ethnicity and gender did not predict CST referrals or outcomes. Utilizing archival data collection of over 4000 CST cases in a Midwestern state between 2018 and 2021, this study will attempt to replicate these prior findings, as well as, investigate whether an interaction effect exists between race or gender and offense type in CST outcomes, and identify whether racial minorities have experienced longer delays in CST evaluations than their white counterparts.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

This work was completed in collaboration with the Lab of Applied Forensic Psychology under the supervision of Dr. Holly Cross, Assistant professor of psychology. Lab members who contributed to this research include: Skylar R Easha, Kamila Wolowiec, Kayla C Smith, Abigail R Thompson, Allison J Kom, Alexandra M Herbert, and Rylee K Garzavaltierra. They are current undergraduate students at Valparaiso University.

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