Cooper v. Oklahoma Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Oklahoma law presumed that a criminal defendant was competent to stand trial unless he proved his incompetence by clear and convincing evidence. Applying that standard, a judge found petitioner Cooper competent on separate occasions before and during his trial for first-degree murder, despite his bizarre behavior and conflicting expert testimony on the issue. In affirming his conviction and death sentence, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected his argument that the State’s presumption of competence, combined with its clear and convincing evidence standard, placed such an onerous burden on him as to violate due process.


Does maritime law permit judges to award punitive damages for employee misdeeds and does maritime law allow judge-made remedies when Congress has not authorized them?


“No. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that because Oklahoma’s procedural rule allows the State to try a defendant who is more likely than not incompetent, it violates due process. Justice Stevens wrote for the court that the stringent standard is “incompatible with the dictates of due process,” and that criminal defendants must be allowed to avoid trial if they prove incompetence by a “preponderance of the evidence.””

Case Information

Citation: 517 US 348 (1996)
Argued: Jan 17, 1996
Decided: Apr 16, 1996
Case Brief: 1996