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Competency: Burden of Proof

State v. Leo E. Wanta, 224 Wis.2d 679, 592 N.W.2d 645 (Ct. App. 1999)
For Wanta: James M. Shellow

HOLDING: Wanta argues that Wis. Stat. § 971.14(4)(b) is unconstitutional, because it requires proof of incompetence by clear and convincing evidence when the defendant claims that s/he is competent (vs. proof of competency by mere greater weight of evidence when the defendant claims incompetence). The court construes the challenge to be one of equal protection. § 971.14(4)(b), the court holds, aims to protect two competing rights – not to be prosecuted when incompetent, and not to be deprived of liberty without due process – and the court applies a strict scrutiny standard. Proof of incompetence by the higher burden of clear and convincing evidence diminishes the risk that a competent defendant would be deprived of liberty and is therefore “clearly constitutional.”

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