State v. Church

In State v. Church, 168 W.Va. 408, 284 S.E.2d 897 (1981), the defendant was examined prior to trial by a psychologist and psychiatrist, both of whom found the defendant competent. The trial court failed to make findings on the competency issue within five days of receiving the reports, as mandated by W.Va. Code 27-6A-1(d), but heard arguments on the issue on the first day of trial at which time the circuit court ruled that the defendant was competent. On appeal to this Court, the defendant claimed that the trial court's failure to comply with W.Va. Code 27-6A-1(d) denied him the right to an evidentiary hearing. The Court disagreed, and reasoned that because the defendant had notice of the findings and opinions of the psychiatric examiners, and did not request a competency hearing prior to trial, the defendant was not prejudiced by the trial court's failure to comply with the statute. The Court held: "A trial judge's failure to make a finding on the issue of a criminal defendant's competency to stand trial within five days after the filing of a report by one or more psychiatrists or a psychiatrist and a psychologist in compliance with W.Va. Code, 27-6A-1(d) 1977, will not be considered to be reversible error requiring a new trial absent prejudice to the defendant resulting from such failure."