FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It is Criminal to Execute The "Mentally Disabled"

by DR. CESAR CHELALA

The planned execution on July 15, 2013, of Georgia prisoner Warren Hill –who has been diagnosed as ‘mentally disabled’- is a gross violation of U.S. federal laws and specifically of the 8th amendment that reads, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.’ The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that criminal sentences that are inhuman, outrageous, or shocking to the social conscience are cruel and unusual.

It is based on a 2002 Supreme Court ruling (Atkins v Virginia) that outlawed the death penalty for prisoners considered mentally disabled. That ruling had left a small gap according to which death penalty states were left to define the legal standard under which ‘mental retardation’ also known as ‘intellectual disability’ is defined.

Warren Hill was sentenced for execution after killing a fellow prisoner while he was serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend in 1990. Hill is scheduled to be killed on Monday in his second appointment with the death chamber in five months. Last February, he came within 30 minutes of execution before that procedure was stayed. Hill’s lawyer has again demanded a stay in the procedure.

Warren Hill has been found to meet the definition of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ since all nine medical experts who have examined him over the years agreed on his mental health status – he has an IQ score of 70 corresponding to those now called ‘intellectually disabled’ or ‘intellectually challenged.’

According to Amnesty International, executing the mentally ill –those who don’t understand the reasons for their punishment- violates the U.S. Constitution (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the common law rule that the “insane” cannot be executed. In a 1986 opinion by Justice Thurgood Marshall, he reasoned that executing the mentally retarded didn’t serve any punitive goals and that Florida’s procedures for determining competency to stand trial were inadequate.

There has been widespread international criticism of the death penalty for the gravely mentally ill. In 1997, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions said that, “Governments that continue to use the death penalty with respect to minors and the mentally ill are particularly called upon to bring their domestic legislation into conformity with international legal standards.”

In 2000, the UN Commission on Human Rights urged all states that maintain the death penalty “not to impose it on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder; not to execute any such person.”

Since 1983, over 60 people with mental illness or retardation have been executed in the United States. The American Bar Association passed a 2006 resolution calling for the exemption of those with serious mental illness from imposition and execution of the death penalty. The National Association of Mental Health estimates that five to ten percent of those on death row have serious mental illness.

Among those asking for a stay in Hill’s execution are former president Jimmy Carter, the Council of Europe, the president of the American Bar Association, a group of mental disability experts, and several law professors and human rights organizations.

Specifically on this case, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated that “the death penalty violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Executing this indisputably intellectually disabled man would not only violate our Constitution, but it would be cruel and unjust beyond reason.”

Furthermore, states the ACLU, “we hold that the state should not arrogate unto itself the right to kill human beings – especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, in the name of the law or in the name of its people, or when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion.”

According to Amnesty International, “Virtually every country in the world prohibits the execution of people with mental illness.” Executing a mentally retarded person is a barbaric practice that has no place in a civilized society.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castille’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail