Argued February 20, Decided June 20, Petitioner Atkins was convicted of capital murder and related crimes by a Virginia jury and sentenced to death. Mfirming, the Virginia Supreme Court relied on Penry v. Executions of mentally retarded criminals are "cruel and unusual punishments" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Supreme Court has found, in Atkins v. The legal system requires mental health professionals to determine whether a prisoner is mentally retarded, which is a difficult and controversial task. Inthe Supreme Court in Penry v.
Lynaugh had determined that the mentally retarded, as a class, should not be protected from receiving the death penalty. The Court found that individuals with mental retardation vary greatly in their capacity and culpability; thus, a blanket exclusion was not appropriate.
After the Penry decision, many states enacted new statutes or adapted their existing death penalty statutes to exempt the mentally retarded.
Inthe Supreme Court reversed itself in Atkins v. Even those states that still permitted such executions had not carried out an execution of a mentally retarded prisoner in the preceding years. In addition, the Atkins court found it significant that the execution of the mentally retarded was opposed by professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Association on Mental Retardation AAMR.
Since the Atkins decision, state courts have struggled with defining mental retardation and determining what burden of proof e. Courts have also disagreed on whether the burden of proving mental retardation should fall on the defendant or the state.
Psychologists and researchers have two main roles associated with the execution of the mentally retarded. First, social science researchers have conducted public opinion polls concerning the execution of mentally retarded prisoners. Public Opinion Research The Atkins court found that public opinion opposed executing the mentally retarded.
Psychologists confirmed this conclusion both before and after the punishment was determined to be unconstitutional.
More recently, surveys published in and found that the rates of support for execution of the mentally retarded were As a result, the death penalty is less likely to be a deterrent.
Furthermore, mentally retarded individuals are less culpable and thus do not deserve harsh treatment. The Court relied on clinical definitions of mental retardation when identifying three criteria that determine the existence of mental retardation: This is not an easy task, as mental retardation is difficult to identify.
Mental health professionals generally measure IQ, processing ability, decision-making ability, impulse control, and adaptive functioning.
Critics question whether such tests should be used to make life-or-death decisions because of their inherent limitations.
Instead, an examiner constructs a unique test for each defendant. Thus, two examiners would likely create two different tests that could produce two different scores.
IQ tests have been criticized for many reasons, including their lack of test-retest reliability. Because mental retardation is such an elusive construct, some trials become battles of the experts to determine whether or not a person is mentally retarded. To complicate things further, there is no uniform legal definition for mental retardation.
Each state can determine its own standard, which can be a subjective endeavor. For example, states differ on the IQ score that indicates mental retardation. Some critics note that, because of varying standards, a defendant who fits the criteria for mental retardation in one state would not do so in another state.
Despite the Supreme Court ruling, the assessment of the mentally retarded comes with controversy. Capital punishment preferences for special offender populations. Journal of Criminal Justice, 31, Death penalty support for special offender populations of legally convicted murderers: Juvenile, the mentally retarded and the mentally incompetent.
Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 22, Virginia () that the execution of those with mental retardation (intellectual disability) is unconstitutional. (See below). This condition is different from mental illness. See DPIC's page on Mental Illness for more information. The Texas courts applied these seven factors—including such things as whether lay people who knew the defendant thought he or she was intellectually disabled and whether the defendant could hide facts or lie effectively—to deny relief under Atkins to individuals who met the clinical definitions of intellectual disability accepted in the.
In a case involving the rape of a child the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute an individual where the crime did not involve murder. McCleskey v Kemp () The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was constitutional despite strong statistical evidence that the race of victim is the most important variable in predicting who will be sentenced to death.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing the mentally ill violated the Eighth and 14th Amendment prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment because a majority of Americans found it cruel and unusual, the Missouri Supreme Court decided to reconsider Simmons' case.
Roper v. Simmons, U.S. (), was a landmark decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes committed while under the age of The decision overruled Stanford v.
Executing The Retarded Unconstitutional. Email The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that executing mentally retarded murderers violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.