Can someone who is mentally impaired with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder be a witness in a criminal trial?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can someone who is mentally impaired with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder be a witness in a criminal trial?

My brother is currently incarcerated in the state of Mississippi for a crime that he did not commit. The star witness in this trial is schizophrenic and bipolar and has hallucinations often. How can that be the states key witness with this type of disorder. In his trial he was unable to let the jury know that this

witness has this disorder. How is that so?

Asked on May 20, 2019 under Criminal Law, Mississippi


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A person with mental illness, even a serious one, can be a witness, as a person with dementia or Alzheimers can be, or a young child. However, their mental condition may be weighed by the jury, who may decide to not credit or believe their testimony. Anyone can be a witness, and the jury (or judge, if it's a non-jury or "bench" trial) decides how much and whether to believe them.
As to why he could not let the jury know this: we presume it's because he or his attorney did not properly introduce this fact or have evidence (e.g. medical records or a treating physician's testimony) to prove it. You can't just allege or claim something like that without credible and admissible evidence to support it.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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