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The Supreme Court / Mark Wilson, Getty Images

WASHINGTON - A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can refute expert testimony about a defendant's mental state with information gleaned from a compelled psychiatric evaluation.

The decision came in the case of a Kansas man who shot and killed a county sheriff while high on methamphetamine. Initially convicted and sentenced to death, Scott Cheever won a reversal from the Kansas Supreme Court on the theory that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was violated by the use of the psychiatrist's exam.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled that by basing his defense against premeditated murder on a drug-induced incapacity, Cheever waived that right. Excluding the prosecution's rebuttal, she said, "would have undermined ... the core truth-seeking function of the trial."

"We hold that where a defense expert who has examined the defendant testifies that the defendant lacked the requisite mental state to commit a crime, the prosecution may offer evidence from a court-ordered psychological examination for the limited purpose of rebutting the defendant's evidence," said the 9-0 decision.

The ruling is sure to have an impact on how defense attorneys and prosecutors use expert testimony about mental incapacity. But it doesn't end Cheever's saga; the high court sent the case back to Kansas for further court proceedings, but with a bolstered prosecution.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Justices sidetrack meth killer's incapacity defense

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