Judge Discretion on Defendant Mental Examination
In reviewing section 44-23-410 and predecessor statutes, our supreme court held that it is within the trial judge's discretion to determine whether a defendant should be given a mental examination. State v. Bradshaw, 269 S.C. 642, 239 S.E.2d 652 (1977); State v. Anderson, 181 S.C. 527, 188 S.E. 186 (1936); State v. Chandler, 126 S.C. 149, 119 S.E. 774 (1923)).
In Bradshaw the court stated: "We think it clear . . . that the trial judge still has such discretion.
He is faced with the question of whether there is 'reason to believe' a defendant lacks a certain mental capacity. This determination necessarily requires the exercise of discretion." Bradshaw at 644, 239 S.E.2d at 653.
In State v. Drayton, 270 S.C. 582, 243 S.E.2d 458 (1978), again addressing section 44-23-410, the supreme court stated:
The statutory injunction, that an examination be ordered when the circuit judge 'has reason to believe' that a defendant is not mentally competent to stand trial, involves the exercise of the discretion of the trial judge in evaluating the facts presented on the question of competency.
Therefore, whether a competency examination is ordered is within the discretion of the trial judge and a refusal to grant such an order will not be set aside unless there is a clear showing of abuse of such discretion.
Drayton at 584, 243 S.E.2d at 459. See also State v. Singleton, 322 S.C. 480, 472 S.E.2d 640 (Ct. App. 1996) (finding the question whether to order a competency examination pursuant to the statute is within the discretion of the trial court).