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Paper Topic:

The mentally ill-retared and the death penalty: Should they be put to death

Should mentally retarded persons found guilty of a capital offense be exempt from the death penalty ? I am of the position that they should not . I believe that the execution of mentally retarded convicts does not violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution , being neither excessive , nor cruel and unusual . The finding of the judge or jury should determine whether the degree of mental retardation of the offender , together with all other circumstances in a case would justify exemption from capital punishment . Their mental condition should not be made an excuse to

escape punishment for their crime

Mental retardation is a syndrome of delayed or dised brain development that is evident before a person reaches the age of eighteen which makes it difficult for him to learn the information and skills needed to adapt quickly and adequately to the environment (Ainsworth 2004 . The Supreme Court substantially adopts this definition in the landmark case of Atkins v . Virginia (2002 , where it noted that clinical definitions of mental retardation require not only subaverage intellectual functioning , but also significant limitations in adaptive skills such as communication , self-care , and self-direction that became manifest before age eighteen ' Mental retardation and mental illness are two separate things : individuals with mental retardation can also experience emotional and psychological problems (VanderSchie-Bezyak 2003

A mentally retarded person is not an idiot ' Nor is he insane Insanity is a defense in criminal cases : an accused who is able to prove insanity at the time of the commission of the offense escapes criminal liability . Opponents of the death penalty have extended the insanity angle a little bit further by now including the mentally retarded among those exempt from capital punishment as to do so would amount to subjecting them to cruel and unusual punishment ' In to determine whether a person is mentally retarded , he is given an I .Q test in some states or subjected to professional examination by experts A person with an I .Q . below 70 is generally considered mentally retarded . It is therefore easy for a person to pretend that he is mentally retarded by deliberately failing such test , or giving misleading answers to the expert . A murder suspect can feign retardation to escape execution (Wilson 2002

In Atkins v . Virginia , the U .S . Supreme Court ruled that a mentally retarded person convicted of a capital crime could not be executed on the ground that to do so would amount to a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution . The said Amendment provides : Excessive bail shall not be required , nor excessive fines imposed , nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted

How the Supreme Court was able to construe the execution of a mentally retarded murderer as cruel and unusual punishment ' under the Eighth Amendment provision is difficult to comprehend . First , it laid down the basic concept adopted by the Court in Trop v . Dulles (1958 ) where Chief Justice Warren Burger stated that The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the...

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