Should appeals wait for inmates to be competent?

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In a case involving an Arizona death row inmate, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether appeals can be delayed in hopes the convict becomes mentally competent enough to help his or her lawyer with the appeal.

Lawyers for Ernest Gonzales and Ohio death row inmate Sean Carter urged the court Tuesday to rule that federal judges have discretion to hold up proceedings until the inmates are ready.

Gonzales murdered a man during a burglary in 1990 in Arizona, and was sentenced to death. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Gonzales' federal appeal could be delayed pending a competency determination after a lower court denied his request for a stay and a competency hearing.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule sometime next year.

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