The Death Penalty And The Mentally Retarded A Brief Overview Of The Injustice Of Allowing Mentally Retarded Persons To Be Put To Death Under The Death Penalty

1987 words - 8 pages

The Death Penalty and The Mentally RetardedIn the U.S. today the estimated amount of people suffering from mental retardation ranges from six to eight million people. A very controversial issue dealing with this segment of society is whether or not they should have to face the death penalty. Many people believe in an "eye for an eye", that if they kill someone then they should die also. The question arises, what if the person who killed someone is mentally retarded, how do you punish them? If the person who committed the heinous crime does not understand what they did is wrong, is it fair to punish them? For many years this issue has been argued and has gone both ways. Many mentally retarded people have been executed, but yet many have been able to avoid execution by being placed in a mental institution. Still, twenty-five of the fifty states allow people who are mentally retarded to receive the death penalty as a punishment for their actions, and it should be eliminated from the united states completely.To be deemed mentally retarded, a person must have an IQ lower than seventy, have been diagnosed before the age of eighteen, and have a history of mental or psychotic behavior. There are only two percent of the general public that would fall into this category. One of the major problems that the mentally retarded have had to deal with are stated in the Human Rights Watch Publications.Indeed, from the moment of arrest a suspect with mental retardation is likely to relinquish key legal protections. Being characteristically suggestible and eager to please persons in authority, and unable to cope with stressful situations, many detainees with mental retardation wave their right to remain silent; some even make false confessions (summary 3).One example of this happening was in the case of Johnny Paul Penry.Penry dropped out of school in the first grade. Growing up he faced physical andmental abuse from his mother who was a schizophrenic. "Although he could not read or write, name the days of the week, count to 100, say how many nickels are in a dime, or name the president of the United States, he was sentenced to death by a Texas jury for the murder of Pamela Mosley Carpenter (2)." This mans mental ability was so low that he could not answer questions, normal people knew the answer to when they were little children and still no one showed sympathy. Someone should have known there was something wrong when he could not count to one hundred, which is used in childhood games like hide and go seek. This is just one-way that mentally retarded are taken advantage of. From the very beginning of his arrest he admitted to a crime he did not commit.Being represented by "inexperienced, badly paid, over worked court appointed attorneys, unable or unwilling to mount an effective defense" is another example of how the mentally retarded are taken advantage of (3). This fact just shows how pathetic the justice system is, that attorneys wont even put out the effort to...

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