Rethinking “Rational” in The Dusky Standard: Assessing a High Profile Delusional Killer’s Functional Abilities in the Courtroom in the Context of a Capital Murder Trial Quinnipiac Law Review, Volume 25 (2) 2006

Bizwanath Halder is now a life sentenced convicted killer, recently found guilty by jury trial of the Case Western Reserve University (“CWRU”) shootings that occurred on May 9, 2003. He was initially indicted on over 300 counts of felony offenses, including crimes such as aggravated murder, kidnapping, burglary, and terrorism. In fact, this was the most heavily indicted criminal case in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and Ohio history. Mr. Halder’s unforgettable acts of violence ultimately stemmed from a bizarre and eccentric delusional mind-set that not only led to violence, but significantly impaired his ability to rationally assist with his defense relevant to his competency to stand trial.

The purpose of this article is to provide a description of Mr. Halder’s mental illness and relate his psychiatric condition to his functional abilities relative to his competency to stand trial. The author will discuss the theoretical components of competency to stand trial, ultimately focusing on the definitional vagueness of “sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” germane to the landmark competency to stand trial decision in Dusky v. United States.1

The author will comment on the judge’s ultimate moral opinion in the Halder case relevant to the defendant’s competency and contrast this finding with the objectives of a forensic mental health expert.