Mental Illnesses And Capital Punishment

Mental Illnesses And Capital Punishment

In 2002, in an unusual criminal case, Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that offenders suffering from severe mental disabilities should not be executed or sentenced to death. It is considered very cruel when capital punishment in the form of death penalty is meted out to people suffering from mental illness or mental disability

However, a clear demarcation was not provided to define what kind of mental illness could enable a person to be exempted from capital punishment. However, the American Bar Association specifies that offenders, who have significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive skills (at the time of committing the crime), resulting from conditions such as mental retardation, dementia or a traumatic brain injury can be exempted. Moreover, if the court finds that the offender’s mental illness impairs his ability to:

  • Comprehend and understand the magnitude and seriousness of the nature of the punishment awarded to him,
  • The purpose of the punishment (the consequences and wrongfulness of his criminal action), and
  • The reason of awarding the punishment

then the person can be exempted from death sentence and awarded some other milder form of punishment.

However, when a person commits a serious offence under the influence of alcohol or other prohibited drugs, then his temporary mental instability (which limits his intellectual functioning and adaptive skills and also hampers the offender’s conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills) at the time of committing the offence, does not make him eligible for exemption from execution or other forms of serious capital punishment

More Articles :

Mental Illnesses And Capital Punishment