Mental Retardation and the Death Penalty

The execution of mentally retarded prisoners has been a controversial topic for decades. The U.S. Supreme Court has found, in Atkins v. Virginia(2002), that such executions are unconstitutional; this decision was partially based on the community's evolving standards of decency. The legal system requires mental health professionals to determine whether a prisoner is mentally retarded, which is a difficult and controversial task.

In 1989, the Supreme Court in Penry v. Lynaugh had determined that the mentally retarded, as a class, should not be protected from receiving the death penalty. Instead, defendants' mental status should be considered on a case-by-case basis, with individual factors determining whether each defendant is eligible for the death penalty. The Court found that individuals with mental retardation vary greatly in their capacity ...

  • Loading...
locked icon

Sign in to access this content

Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

  • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
  • Read modern, diverse business cases
  • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles