Capital Punishment: Is it Just for the Mentally Retarded Essay Sample

On July 4. 1776. a group of 55 gentlemen drafted a set of regulations called the Constitution. It was so. as is now. the jurisprudence of the land that Americans live under. However. through the old ages it has been amended to let for alterations in society. and the manner the American people evolve in idea and virtuousness. It is the occupation of the Supreme Court of the United States to construe the Constitution and find what precisely these amendments province.

Certain inquiries refering the Fundamental law are frequently asked of society. One of these inquiries is whether or non the mentally retarded should be punishable by decease if they are convicted of a offense. If taken into consideration the outlook. the challenges they face. and the maltreatment that is frequently imposed upon such individuals. could Americans cover with them confronting the same penalty as the mentally capable? Is this a indurate society being lived in today. or one of compassion? When looking at the whole image with a small spot of understanding and cognition. the determination is fundamentally one of bulk. Publishing the decease punishment for the mentally retarded is an unfair penalty.

Since approximately 1989. the Supreme Court has earnestly taken into consideration whether or non the mentally retarded should be executed if found guilty of a offense ( Mossman 1 ) . The inquiry introduced to the Court was whether or non it was unconstitutional under the 8th amendment. In 1989. the opinion reached by the Court was that it was non unconstitutional. and there was no consensus against penalizing the mentally retarded.

However. since so. the Supreme Court has taken another expression into this affair. In June of 2002. they deemed that such penalty for the mentally retarded was unconstitutional under the 8th amendment ( Valentine 1 ) . The 8th amendment of the United States Constitution bans cruel and unusual penalty. The determination was reached on the footing of “evolving criterions of decency” as understood by society. which brings up the affair of a national consensus ( Williams 3 ) . In finding if such a consensus exists. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said. in April of 2002. that the figure of provinces that have passed statute law prohibiting these executings was the root of the bing consensus ( “Executing the Mentally Retarded. ” 3 ) .

On June 20. 2002. the Supreme Court ruled by a six to three ballot to censor the decease punishment for the mentally retarded ( Valentine 1 ) . The sentiment of the Supreme Court. which was led by Justice John Paul Stephens. stated that because of their disablements in concluding and deficiency of control over their urges. they do non move with the degree of “moral culpability” that portrays the most serious condemnable behavior ( Harris. et Al. 1 ) . On the other manus. the three Justice’s who voted against the ruling–Chief Justice Rehnquist. Justices Scalia and Thomas wrote that they found no support in the diction or history of the 8th amendment for this determination. They felt the bulk opinion was based entirely on the personal positions of the tribunals members ( Harris. et Al. 1 ) . A Gallup Poll was taken a month prior to the opinion which showed that Americans opposed by 82 % that put to deathing the mentally retarded was the incorrect penalty ( Schneider 2 ) . Therefore. it is possible that it wasn’t merely personal positions by a few work forces. but a widely held position as good.

During the twelvemonth 1989. there were merely two provinces. Maryland and Georgia. who barred executing of the mentally retarded ( “Executing the Mentally Retarded. ” 1 ) . By 2001. nevertheless. five more provinces enacted such Torahs. Then. by 2002. out of 38 provinces with the decease punishment. 18 of them prohibit its usage against mentally retarded individuals. In the High Court’s position in merely 13 old ages this is where the national consensus is most apparent.

In the provinces which ban these executings. Texas is one in which still hasn’t barred the usage of the decease punishment for the mentally retarded. In 2001. both houses of the Texas legislative assembly passed a measure that would hold expelled these executings. Yet. Governor Rick Perry vetoed that measure. The job Texas is holding is the inquiry that many provinces have. When should a individual be considered mentally retarded. and who should acquire to make up one’s mind ( Siegel 1 ) ? Most provinces follow the guidelines of the American Association of Mental Retardation to find if a individual meets the definition.

These guidelines are I. Q. . low adaptative capacities. and whether something occurred during childhood to confine emotional development. Mental Retardation is defined as: lessened intelligence. an impaired ability to execute activities of day-to-day life and. an oncoming of the disablement in early life ; between birth and 18 old ages of age ( “A Step Forward for Humanity? ” 903 ) . Mentally retarded individuals have troubles in linguistic communication and communicating. They have jobs with attending. memory. rational rigidness. and in moral development and apprehension. They are easy unfastened to suggestion by other grownups and authorization figures. Although. there is no uncertainty that people who suffer from mental deceleration do hold an apprehension between what is right and what is incorrect. they have terrible jobs in other countries. Some of these countries include: common sense. foresight. planning. deliberate thought. and the apprehension of effects ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 7 ) . They are limited in their ability to larn from experience and to command their urges.

Mental deceleration is. in general. identified through trials of intelligence and societal capablenesss given by specially trained professionals ( Mossman 6 ) . I. Q. tonss are set up where the mean mark is 100. A cut-off mark of 70 has been set as the intelligence degree that indicates mental deceleration. The bulk of U. S. citizens have an I. Q. mark between 80 and 120. Although rational degrees among the retarded can change a batch. an 89 % estimation of their I. Q. degrees are in the 57 to 70 scopes. These Numberss are tantamount to that of a 3rd grader. With that in head. is executing the reply? In all equity. though. the Numberss that I. Q. trials produce are non absolutely dependable. These trials have a “measurement error” of approximately five points ( Mossman 6 ) .

After looking at I. Q. trials. the following country is in adaptative accomplishments. Mental deceleration shows restrictions in two or more of the basic accomplishment countries necessary to get by with every twenty-four hours life. A few illustrations are: communicating. self-care. place life. societal accomplishments. and work. An grownup with mental deceleration may hold problem driving a auto. following waies. or making work of any complexness. They may besides hold inappropriate behaviour in a societal scene. such as smiling invariably or unsuitably. For most people with mental deceleration limited adaptative accomplishments make ordinary life hard. The trouble is particularly prevailing if there is no household support or some kind of societal support system. These types of support are necessary for about all people. Imagine confronting the challenge of deceleration without them. Wrongdoers with mental deceleration who have been convicted of the most flagitious of capital offenses by and large grew up without a loving household or any type of construction. for that affair ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 3 ) .

There is an statement specifically orated by Justice Scalia that mental deceleration can be faked ( Mossman 9 ) . Sing a individual is confronting life or decease. they are non likely to seek to make good on an I. Q. trial. or any other trial for that affair. This statement is decidedly apprehensible. However. with the 3rd finding factor of mental deceleration. there is no forging. This factor is that mental deceleration occurred in early childhood. It can be caused by any status that impairs development of the encephalon before or after childbearing. There are many causes–heredity. familial abnormalcies. hapless antenatal attention. malnutrition. and physical maltreatment. among others. Apart from the cause. portion of the definition of mental deceleration is the manifestation during an individual’s developmental period. School records and such are obtained to find that an person. in fact. has suffered mental deceleration throughout their life. An ordinary grownup can non all of a sudden go mentally retarded ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 4 ) .

To put to death the mentally retarded would be a sedate statement about society. Taking into consideration that it is in the nature of the retarded to delight authorization figures. they are more than probably to relinquish their rights without to the full understanding them. The tribunals frequently recognize releases by the mentally retarded without ample consideration of the nature of their ability and its impact on such cardinal determinations. Many people with mental deceleration wantonnesss of import rights fundamentally because they can non understand what it means to hold a right. much less what it means to relinquish it. Miranda warnings are written at a 7th class degree. legion people with mental deceleration map at a much lower academic degree. They are unable to understand the words and significances of the warning ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 3 ) .

Innocent people who are mentally retarded frequently confess to capital offenses they did non perpetrate because they are less able to manage the emphasis and fright of long-drawn-out constabulary questions. Given the fact that they have the characteristic to delight authorization figures ; as a consequence. they will desire to give the “right” reply to derive blessing. Furthermore. they believe if the constabularies say they did something they must hold done it. even if they do non retrieve making such ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 5 ) . They are frequently extremely in melody with elusive and not-so-subtle hints given by the inquisitor about what may be the “right answer” to a inquiry. Some of these inside informations in the confessions by the mentally retarded semen from the constabulary either intentionally or unconsciously. This can do confusion because the constabulary officer doesn’t needfully cognize that he gave these hints. and if they are repeated frequently plenty the mentally retarded suspect will get down to believe his confession as the truth ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 7 ) .

The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that every suspect has the right to have “reasonably effective” advocate ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 10 ) . The peculiar exposures of the mentally retarded make it important for them to hold experienced. committed advocate. Most of the clip. the mentally retarded are hapless people. This factor causes them to be left with tribunal appointed lawyers who lack accomplishments. resources. and the dedication to manage any capital instance. much less one affecting a suspect with mental deceleration ( Fellner 4 ) . Mentally retarded wrongdoers can non. most frequently. assist their attorneies in fixing their defence as a suspect with normal intelligence could make. The retarded typically find it difficult to retrieve information that would assist their lawyer. this being because of memory jobs. and because they are unable to acknowledge what information would be helpful ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 10 ) . With all of this in head. it would merely be an unfortunate result to give the mentally retarded the decease punishment. To to the full understand the gravitation of publishing the decease punishment for the mentally retarded a expression into the lives of some of the work forces convicted of capital offenses needs to be taken.

Johnny Paul Penry. harmonizing to a former neighbour and relations. was on a regular basis beat on the caput. by his female parent. with a belt buckle as a kid. In add-on. she would lock him indoors for hours on terminal. and he was made to imbibe his ain piss. Penry’s female parent besides removed him from school before he finished the first class. At the age of 12 he was sent to a province school for the mentally retarded ( Orecklin 63 ) . In 1979. piece at the age of 23. Penry raped. round. and fatally stabbed Pamela Mosely Carpenter. who was 22. Penry confessed to the slaying. During the confession. he said. “I told her that I…hated to kill her. but I had to so she wouldn’t squeal on me. ” ( Orecklin 63 ) .

Penry was convicted of this offense and sentenced to decease. However. less than four hours before the scheduled executing. the Supreme Court issued a stay of executing based on the fact that the jury was non told to see factors such as his mental capableness ( Williams 1 ) . While this is a flagitious offense and a really revealing statement made by Penry ; taking into history all the facts of mental deceleration and his specific instance. he is non a extremely blameworthy felon. Penry has an I. Q. between 53 and 60. In 2002. he was 44 old ages old. He reportedly spends his yearss in prison pulling with crayons and looking at amusing books. He can non read. He believes in Santa Claus ( Orecklin 63 ) .

An illustration of how much the mentally retarded individual is willing and wants to delight. look at Earl Washington. He is a mentally retarded adult male from Virginia who confessed to a slaying he did non commit. He spent 16 old ages on decease row and was about to be executed when a group of Illinois news media pupils proved through DNA grounds that he was non the 1 who committed the offense ( “A Step Forward for Humanity? ” 903 ) . Earl Washington’s mental deceleration was diagnosed when he was a kid. A former employer of Earl Washington said he was really suggestible and particularly eager to delight. He said. “You could acquire [ him ] to squeal that he walked on the Moon. ” ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 8 ) . Washington’s attorney would set out an attempt to demo the falsity of his confession by stating him to “pick a twenty-four hours. any twenty-four hours. and state Washington that twenty-four hours was [ his ] birth date…after goad and cajoling. Washington would accept the false day of the month. ” ( Ehrenreich. Fellner 8 ) . Fortunately. Deoxyribonucleic acid became available and Earl Washington was spared decease. At that clip. executing of the mentally retarded was considered constitutional.

The instance “Atkins v. Common Wealth of Virginia. ” is the 1 in which the Supreme Court went back on their opinion in 1989 that it was constitutional to put to death the mentally retarded ( “Executing the Mentally Retarded” 3 ) . This was in 2002. and they found that a national consensus exists. Daryl Atkins was a adolescent when he committed slaying. His rational confines and societal maladjustment had already been obvious for old ages. It is documented that he failed and repeated 2nd class. and made chiefly D’s and F’s throughout 7th class ( Mossman 2 ) . Although he was referred by school functionaries for special-education preparation. he was ne’er evaluated. After having all F’s in 8th class. he was still promoted to high school. He did non alumnus. When he was 18 he was arrested for the slaying of Eric Nesbitt. At that clip. he had non yet learned how to make laundry or cook for himself. Atkins was tested and shown to hold an I. Q. of 59 ( “Executing the Mentally Retarded” 3 ) .

These illustrations help to exemplify how many factors are involved in finding whether the mentally retarded should confront the same penalty for capital offenses as those that are mentally sound. For many people it is hard to see past the Acts of the Apostless of force. But if force was something that was non understood. or if right and incorrect were hard to separate between. would it still be as hard to see past? Sing society’s nature. it would look that the penalty those convicted of flagitious offenses would be the same for all. But when taking into consideration the fact that these people are as mentally capable as kids. society’s nature should alter. In a quote signifier the article. “Mentally Retarded Don’t Belong on Death Row. ” Jamie Fellner says:

No 1 argues that the mentally retarded should be free from condemnable duty. But life imprisonment is sufficient to show society’s indignation at atrocious offenses. to keep wrongdoers accountable and to protect society from farther force. It is clip the United States join the universe in acknowledging the senseless inhuman treatment of put to deathing anyone with the head of a kid. ( Fellner 4 )

No 1 wants to see a kid executed. Why should it be different for those enduring from mental deceleration? The reply is. it should non.

Plants Cited

“A Step Forward for Humanity? ” The Lancet 16 Mar. 2002. Electric Library. Carl

Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 16 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Ehrenreich. Rosa. Jamie Fellner. “Beyond Reason: The Miscarriage of Justice. ” Human Rights Watch 2001. 27 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //www. hrw. org/

“Executing the Mentally Retarded. ” America 29 Apr. 2002. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 16 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Fellner. Jamie. “Mentally Retarded Don’t Belong on Death Row. ” San Francisco Chronicle 4 Jan 2000. 29 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //www. hrw. org/

Harris. Leon. Bob Franklin. Jeffrey Toobin. “Supreme Court Says it’s Unconstitutional to Execute Mentally Retarded. ” CNN Live Today 20 Jun. 2002. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 24 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Mossman. Douglas. “Psychiatry in the Courtroom. ” Public Interest 1 Jan. 2003. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 16 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Orecklin. Michele. “Should John Penry Die? ” Time ; Canadian Edition 27 Nov. 2000. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 27 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Schneider. William. “A People-Watching Court. ” National Journal 29 Jun. 2002. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 24 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Siegel. Robert. “Profile: Texas Governor Vetoes Bill Barring Execution of Mentally Retarded. ” All Thingss Considered ( NPR ) 18 Jun. 2001. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College

Lib. . Poteau. OK. 16 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Valentine. Victoria. “Questions: Richard Dieter on the Death Penalty. ” The New Crisis 1 Jul. 2002. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 16 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

Williams. Juan. “Analysis: Whether Peoples Who Are Mentally Retarded Should be Exempt From the Death Penalty. ” Talk of the Nation NPR 2 Apr. 2001. Electric Library. Carl Albert State College Lib. . Poteau. OK. 24 Oct. 2003.

hypertext transfer protocol: //elibrary. bigchalk. com/

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