Capital punishment and serious mental illness
Yet a significant proportion of death row inmates are mentally ill (even when mental illness is defined in the narrow sense adopted in this essay), and the research evidence suggests that mental illness is often, in fact if not in law, an factor as far as capital sentencing bodies are concerned.
Does the death penalty target people who are mentally …
Wainwright, that it is cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment to execute a person whose mental state renders understanding of capital punishment impossible.
Of course capital punishment doesn't rehabilitate the prisoner and return them to society. But there are many examples of persons condemned to death taking the opportunity of the time before execution to repent, express remorse, and very often experience profound spiritual rehabilitation.
Mental illness can be described in a variety of ways
Liliana Lyra Jubilut, Death Penalty And Mental Illness: The Challenge Of Reconciling Human Rights, Criminal Law, And Psychiatric Standards, Seattle J. for Soc. Just., Vol. 6, p. 353, 2007.
Chart providing details of Louisiana Capital Punishment Laws
Where the possible sentence is death, the prisoner has the strongest possible incentive to try to get their sentence reduced, even to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, and it's argued that capital punishment therefore gives a useful tool to the police.
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The unconstitutionality of imposing the death sentence on intellectually disabled offenders may eventually become the grounds for finding that seriously mentally ill offenders should also be exempted from the death penalty. However, at this time, there is no clear trend toward changing the law. Of the 34 states that use the death penalty, only Connecticut exempts a defendant from being sentenced to death if "the defendant's mental capacity was significantly impaired or the defendant's ability to conform the defendant's conduct to the requirements of law was significantly impaired but not so impaired in either case as to constitute a defense to prosecution." Other states, such as Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana have proposed similar legislation, but it has failed to pass.
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This is a very feeble justification for capital punishment, and is rather similar to arguments that is justified because it would be a useful police tool.
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A unique justification for keeping capital punishment has been put forward by some Japanese psychologists who argue that it has an important psychological part to play in the life of the Japanese, who live under severe stress and pressure in the workplace.