Supplement to Chapter 15
(Sanity and Other Things)
Copyright © 2006 DH Kaye
In light of the diverse capacities and life experiences of mentally retarded persons, it cannot be said on the record before us today that all mentally retarded people, by definition, can never act with the level of culpability associated with the death penalty.Id. at 338-39. In Atkins v. Virginia, 122 S. Ct. 2242 (2002), however, the Supreme Court reversed its position. The Court noted that in response to Penry, the federal government and 19 states enacted or were in the process of enacting legislation forbidding such punishment, that one of the remaining states had such a statute at the time of Penry, and that the remainder rarely executed mentally retarded offenders. It concluded that this legislation evidenced a national moral consensus against execution of the mentally retarded. This view, it obserbed, was shared by several professional, religious, and international organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Association on Mental Retardation, the United States Catholic Conference, and the European Union. In addition, the Court reasoned that the cognitive limitations of the mental retarded deprived the punishment of deterrent effect and retributive value. Accordingly, the Court held that execution of a retarded offender constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eight Amendment.
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