Death Penalty Has Been A Long-Contested Issue Essay

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Death penalty has been a long-contested issue among States, legislators, policy makers, and individuals alike. So complicated is the issue that no two opinions appear to be the same. Indeed, the divergence of the various opinions extend to a variety of concerns within the death penalty and the Constitution themselves, including the fairness of capital punishment and decisions relating to it in terms of gender, class, race, and so on. One of the most prominent issues within the death penalty is probably mental illness and retardation. As pointed out by one of the authors to be examined below, the law prohibits imposing the death penalty for persons who are mentally incompetent. The question is, however, how many mentally incompetent persons in fact declare their incompetence?

The case Atkins v. Virginia involves Daryl Renard Atkins, who was accused of abduction, armed robbery, and capital murder. After it was revealed that he had a full IQ of 59, the Virginia Supreme Court ordered a second sentencing hearing after the first, which sentence him to death. After testimony from...
...The rest of the section considers the Constitution and the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." Based on this, the general opinion today is that it is "cruel and unusual" to use the death penalty against a mentally retarded person.

Tobolowsky's Chapter 9 focuses the discussion of the death penalty in terms of both mental illness and mental retardation. These conditions have been addressed by the Supreme Court as a result of their effect on culpability and the ability of individuals to take responsibility for their actions. The author starts by distinguishing terms such as "mental illness," which is a broad term referring to a number of specific disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and anxiety. Mental retardation, on the other hand, is more specifically focused on an individual's ability or lack thereof to function on a…

Sources Used in Documents:

References

Atkins v. Virginia

Human Rights Watch. Executing the Mentally Retarded is Unfair.

Tobolowsky, P.M. Chapter 9: Mental Health and the Death Penalty: Matters of Competency and Culpability.

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