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Specifically, Singleton's case was denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, and he was executed in Arkansas on January 6, 2004. As noted in the lower court's dissent: "Treating the prisoner may provide short-term relief but ultimately result in his execution, whereas leaving him untreated will condemn him to a world such as Singleton's, filled with disturbing delusions and hallucinations." Simply put: The Court found it in the state of Arkansas' best interest for Singleton to be forcibly treated and executed rather than left untreated but alive."
The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistently clear since the decision in Gregg v. Georgia that the Constitution does not prohibit execution as long as procedural safeguards are established, but the Court's jurisprudence concerning the mentally ill as opposed to the mentally retarded has been less clear. In 2002, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded (see Atkins v. Virginia). The Court, however, has upheld executing the mentally ill with a series of inconsistent, or perhaps ambiguous, opinions. "
In another case, Ford vs. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing an insane inmate is not constitutional, because it does not teach the sane any lessons, nor does it serve to rehabilitate other insane inmates.
In Riggins v. Nevada, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state could not forcibly medicate a capitally charged defendant prior to trial, and in Sell v. United States, the Court held that the state could not forcibly medicate a defendant to make him competent to stand trial unless there was an issue of danger to self or others."
The difference between Riggins and Sell on the one hand and Ford and Singleton on the other appears to be that the former still were considered defendants, whereas the latter were "offenders." Defendants lose certain constitutional protections (such as the right to refuse antipsychotic medication) in their passage to the status of offender/prisoner. Basically, mentally ill defendants -- innocent until proven guilty -- are not subject to government-imposed treatment regimens until convicted. But a death row inmate cannot be executed if, as a result of mental illness, the prisoner is unaware of his or her pending execution and the reasons for it. A mentally ill death row inmate can only be executed if he or she is restored to competency (sanity) and understands the above. Restoration may be accomplished through a variety of means that normally would include medication in addition to therapy. A death row inmate who takes antipsychotic medication voluntarily presents no constitutional issues. The problem is with those inmates who refuse to take antipsychotic medication and the role that the medical profession should play."
Stone, Alan. Condemned Prisoner Treated and Executed.
Psychiatric Times; 3/1/2004)
Those who assist in the medication of the mentally ill on death row facilitate the harm done by the execution. This is a point that has been argued in the courts for many years and is still hotly debated today.
Severe mental illness -- a separate issue -- afflicts at least 370 condemned inmates, according to the National Mental Health Association. This category includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis, major depression and suicidal thoughts. Some people with mental illnesses, like Keel, suffer from both brain damage and a serious personality disorder. "One problem is that the definition of mental retardation is different from state to state. North Carolina has an absolute cut-off of 70 IQ, and Keel's actual score was 78," Ferguson said.
At this point, the governor is the last chance." spokesperson for Gov. Mike Easley, the only person with the authority to halt the execution, said he met Keel's attorneys
Tuesday. A clemency decision is expected Thursday or Friday.
Easley will also decide the fate of John Dennis Daniels, scheduled for lethal injection Nov. 14, who psychiatrists testified has "the emotional and social development of an 11- or 12-year-old child."
The Supreme Court set an incredibly low standard for execution of the mentally ill," said one expert, "Basically, you just have to understand that you're being executed." "You can be so far gone you can't help your attorneys, you can't remember your alibi, where you were, or what you were doing - but you're still eligible for the death penalty." No state explicitly permits the execution of a mentally ill prisoner, but in practice, competency standards are so low as to permit severely ill people to be held fully accountable for their behaviour, legal scholars say.
The execution of the mentally ill after forcing them to take medication has been upheld in several U.S. courts. The logic behind such decisions is flawed for several reasons. The mentally ill who are so disordered that they cannot function are not forced to stand trial, nor are they required to answer for their crimes. They are allowed an insanity defense that allows them to seek treatment and eventually apply to be released back to society. It does not make sense, that a mentally ill person can be force fed medications so that they become sane enough to be executed, if defendants cannot be force fed medications for the purpose of understanding their crime and standing trial. The health care industry is built on not harming others. It makes no sense to ask its members to provide medical treatment that will ultimately result in the death of that patient.
Executing the mentally ill or the mentally retarded is unconstitutional especially in light of the fact that those same people would not be required to stand trial if their illness had shown itself at the time. It is time to become more stringent in this debate and raise the standards so that severely mentally ill people cannot be forced to take medications that will make them well enough to be executed.
RIGHTS-U.S.: DEATH PENALTY for MENTALLY ILL CALLED a RIGHTS ABUSE
Inter-Press Service English News Wire; 11/7/2003; Katherine Stapp
Inter-Press Service English News Wire
Killer's case stirs debate about death penalty for the mentally ill.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service; 8/16/1999; Moritz, John
Forcible medication of mentally ill criminal defendants: the case of Russell Eugene Weston, Jr. (Notes).
Stanford Law Review; 4/1/2002; Feinberg, Aimee
Doctors, lawyers clash over death-row case; Issue in Arizona: Should inmate's mental competency be restored so he.(USA)
The Christian Science Monitor; 8/19/1999; Schwartz, David H.
Condemned Prisoner Treated and Executed.
Psychiatric Times; 3/1/2004; Stone, Alan a.
Byline: Alan a. Stone, M.D.
Do no harm: should we medicate to execute?
Commonweal; 6/20/2003; Hensl, Kursten
Do no harm: should we medicate to execute?
Commonwealth; 6/20/2003; Hensl, Kursten)
Forcibly medicating death row inmates with mental illness -- an ethical dilemma.(Guest Editorial)
Behavioral Health Management; 1/1/2004; Eisenberg, James R.)
RIGHTS-U.S.: DEATH PENALTY for MENTALLY ILL CALLED a RIGHTS ABUSE Inter-Press…[continue]
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For example, they should be required to complete at least 20 hours of training on brain disorders. It is ideal if consumers and family members become part of the activity and process. It must also be emphasized that, in most cases, dangerous or violent acts committed by persons with these brain disorders are the consequence of neglect, inappropriate or inadequate treatment of their illness (NAMI). The Alliance also contends that
Support for this contention comes from the observation that male offenders too are comparatively lightly punished when domestic abuse is involved. Other factors, however, indicate greater complexity. Streib (1990), for instance, showed that confounding factors for deserving the death sentence include the offender's prior record for committing crimes; premeditation of the crime; and her potential for future violent crimes. Women are less likely to represent or possess these characteristics than
Thus, execution of the mentally retarded is not only illegal, but immoral as well. Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn of Amnesty International wants to expand this logic to include the mentally ill, stating, "Severely mentally ill people are not the worst of the worst" (Weigl 2006). Works Cited Hansen, Liane; Siegel, Robert. (2002 June 20). Analysis: Supreme Court rules it unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded people who've committed crimes. All Things Considered: National Public Radio.
Capital Punishment (Death Penalty) and Mentally Retarded In July 2002, the United States Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded prisoners. This ruling reflects a shift in the Court's previous position, when it ruled in 1989 that such executions did not entail "cruel or unusual punishment" nor did they violate the Constitution's Eighth Amendment. Despite the ruling, however, the debate about the death penalty and mental retardation continues. Human rights
4, para.2). Therefore, the presence of an underlying mental illness that did not render a defendant unable to appreciate that he was committing a crime or compel him to commit it, may still be sufficient to mitigate the crime. Furthermore, a lack of mental ability that does not rise to the level of mental retardation may be introduced to mitigate the crime. Therefore, the forensic psychologist needs to be able
Moreover, in Perry v. Louisiana, 498 U.S. 38 (1990), the Court used that decision to bolster Louisiana's attempts to forcibly medicate a prisoner in order to make him death-eligible. If one agrees that the death penalty is a just penalty for one who has committed a capital crime, and that the reason that mentally ill defendants should not be executed is because they lack competence, then it does not
Statistics show that black murderers are far more likely than white murderers to get the death penalty, especially if the victim was white. Blacks make up 12% of the population but 40% of the population on death row, as noted. Georgia can serve as a case in point. Statistics show that a black man accused of killing a white person in Georgia is substantially more likely to receive the