On June 20, 2001, a spotlight was put on Houston, Texas when news of a mother killing her five children hit the airwaves. Thirty-six year old Andrea Yates confessed to systematically drowning her four sons, ages two, three, five & seven, as well as her six month old daughter in a bathtub in the family home shortly after her husband left for work that day. When asked why she did it, Andrea stated that she was a bad mother because the children were “not developing correctly” and that she needed to be punished because of this. After being arrested and remanded to custody, Yates allegedly showed signs of psychosis and hallucinations, including seeing Satan in her cell and hearing him talk to her. Yates’ history of depression was also speculated upon.


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This case brought the subject of different types of competency examinations to the forefront of the public eye.

There are different types of competency evaluations that a forensic psychologist will use depending on the situation surrounding the person being assessed.

  • Competency to Stand Trial

Competency to stand trial means the defendant understands what is happening around him or her, the reasons he/she is in court, and can contribute to his or her defense.

  • Competency to Plead Guilty

This is the ability for the defendant to understand the nature of the offense, the consequences associated with the charge, and the rights waived by the plea of guilty.

  • Competency to Testify in Court

This evaluation includes observations of the individual’s ability to accurately interpret events, evaluation of their memory and suggestibility, assessment of their ability to communicate, and an assessment of their moral development.

  • Competency to be Executed

Like competency to stand trial, a defendant must be able to show he or she has the capacity to understand a court’s reasons for the sentence of execution and the permanent result of execution.

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