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U.S. justices agree to weigh defendant's self-incrimination claim

People line up for admission at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
People line up for admission at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to consider whether a criminal defendant's right against self-incrimination is violated when a psychiatrist who examined him testifies about his mental state.

Scott Cheever was sentenced to death for killing Greenwood County, Kansas, Sheriff Matthew Samuels while officers sought to enforce a warrant for his arrest in January 2005.

Cheever's defense was that he was intoxicated after using methamphetamine and therefore incapable of the premeditation necessary for him to be convicted of murder and attempted murder.

The legal question is whether Cheever's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was violated when the state called a psychiatrist who had examined Cheever to testify in order to rebut the claim that the defendant was incapable of rational thought.

The psychiatrist's testimony was based in part on what Cheever had said to him during the evaluation. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in Cheever's favor.

Oral argument and a decision are expected in the U.S. Supreme Court's next term, which begins in October and runs until June 2014.

The case is Kansas v. Cheever, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-609.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Eric Beech)

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