As modern society begins to accept social
differences, it is apparent that exceptions are being made for individuals who
suffer as minorities (i.e. homosexuals, African Americans, Mexican Americans,
mentally disabled, physically handicapped, etc.). With these exceptions
regarding the law, excessive research and review must be done to righteously
conclude the case for each individual depending on the severity of the crime.
For just decisions, current medical standards are to be used by the jury. An
understanding of the criminal’s historical and medical background is essential
in relation to the crime itself. Sometimes these pieces of evidence clarify the
reasoning of a person’s motives. There is by no means an end to this general
debate, as there are many contradicting aspects in each case. However, using
the accurate resources given and obtaining better knowledge of psychological
disorders can improve the Supreme Court’s standards, along with societal
standards as this nation continues to progress in its commitment for a better

While reviewing clinical standards is
crucial for a case’s decision, it is also important to understand the
correspondence between criminal acts and mental disorders. Most do not
comprehend how or why those with mental disabilities are involved in a crime,
mainly because they do not possess the same cognitive processes. According to
Frank Sirotich, historical factors can influence a mentally challenged
individual. For example, a parent forcing “serious physical abuse” to a
mentally ill child is associated with an “increased rate of post discharge
violence” once the child is older, which can lead to significant consequences. 9
Additionally, it was discovered in clinical factors that those who have
schizophrenia are “at elevated risk for homicide” over those who have
depression or bipolar disorder. 9 Psychiatric researcher James
MacGabe found that most individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorders tend to be
of higher intelligence in contrast to those with schizophrenia. 10 Given
that there are is a possibility of schizophrenic criminals out there, it is
critical to take into consideration these current medical standards when
deciding a case. Although some do not adhere in allowing an intellectually
disabled person to bypass the death sentence, a politician is expected to
analyze both sides of a situation and determine what is just for the
prosecutors and the persecuted overall. Mentally disabled people possess the
same human rights as any normal human being. That being said, it is still up to
the Supreme Court to clarify which resolution is righteous for all.

Politicians are concerned that there are criminals
who will use insanity as their line of defense if they’re caught in the act.
This is where current medical standards come in to play. In the case of Moore
v. Texas, it is inconspicuous to determine whether the decision was fair. Growing
up with academic incapabilities, Moore defended himself from life sentence
based on his intellectual handicap and remarked that using medical standards
that dated back to 1992 was “unusual and highly idiosyncratic,” as these
standards proved he was not mentally disabled. 8 He emphasized that
it was accurate to use current medical standards for determining a person’s
mental health. The Texas CCA, however, did take into consideration Moore’s case
in recent research before coming to the ultimate decision of placing him in death
row. In Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court clarified that states’ medical
standards ought to be informed by the “medical community’s diagnostic
framework.” 8 However, the state could not articulate a medical
definition of intellectual conditions. With this disorganization, it is
incoherent and questionable as attorneys and judges struggle to grasp the
concept of definite clinical standards. As the standards vary by state, it is
uncertain whether a true criminal in his or her right mind will be sentenced to
death. The very same concerns are toward individuals with mental health issues
as they could potentially be executed if the court of appeals does not fully
review recent medical resources for determination.

a result, Atkins was not executed but sentenced for life imprisonment by Judge
Prentis Smiley Jr., who was deemed by prosecutors to “lack the authority” to
impose death sentence. 6 In this case, Atkins is serving his life in
jail while Hinckley Jr. got away with attempted murder and was released from
the mental hospital to live with his mother. Some constituents wonder if sending
a mentally ill criminal to a hospital solves anything. Others believe that it
does not compensate the damage of violent behavior alone, but neither does the
death penalty. Life sentence only ensures that the individual will not commit
anymore criminal acts again, but it will not reduce the crime rate.  Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock both
examined the statistics and outcomes of death penalties in correlation to crime
rates. In their analysis, they have found that in a national survey, two-third
of respondents believed that the death penalty “was not a deterrent” of
criminal behavior. 7 If it does not deter individuals from
committing these violent acts, then what must be done? Although most of today’s
society does not agree that this punishment solves anything, the minority
refutes that it is effective in justice. For those who are deserving of such
penalty are ones that are mentally stable. However, there is the possibility of
criminals’ fraudulent claims.

A case that was decided in June of 2002,
Atkins v. Virginia involved Daryl Atkins being guilty of committing capital
murder. In the first hearing, Atkins was given the death penalty, although his
IQ was 59. During the second hearing to assure the accuracy of a verdict form,
Dr. Stanton Samenow claimed that Atkins could be diagnosed with an “antisocial
personality disorder”, but not necessarily a mental disorder that defined his
intellect. 5 Once again, Atkins was subjected to capital punishment.
Both Justices Koontz and Hassell were appalled and argued that “individuals who
are mentally retarded” are “less culpable for their criminal acts.” 5 Considering
the eighth amendment of the Constitution, Justice Stewart also stated that a
sentence to prison is a cruel and unusual punishment for “the ‘crime’ of having
a common cold”, emulating mental illness to a common one. 5 This
comparison struck a chord in many legislatives as they conversed the issue of
this case.

In 1981, a man named John Hinckley Jr.
attempted the assassination of President Ronald Reagan for unknown reasons. As
he was pleaded guilty in court, his main defense was his insanity. Defense
attorneys would try to prove his mental disabilities and issues in junior high.
Apparently, his attorneys were successful as the jury clears him of his
consequences and sends him to a mental facility for help. During this trial,
however, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Robert Jackson interviewed a few jurors
who admitted the “deliberations as exhausting” and lamely came down to the
decision of letting Hinckley Jr. off the hook. 4 Some interviewees
said they had no comment or declined to respond to the press of this ordeal. It
is unusual that cases like these are settled in this way, but it causes
politicians to ponder upon the pros and cons of such a decision.  

In the United States Constitution,
Amendment VIII pledges that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor
excessive fine imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” 1
Some constituents and political leaders argue that the definition of “cruel and
unusual punishment” is barbaric, outdated, and unnecessary for penalty. The
death penalty itself is a controversial issue that stirs the public in a
dispute. For democrats, it is seen as unnecessary as they are more lenient in
offering medical services such as psychiatric wards to assist the mentally
challenged criminal. Conservatives are more firm in their stance with the death
penalty, regardless of any mental state as committing voluntary manslaughter is
considered intolerable and unnegotiable. Although moderate conservatives and
liberals are considerate of other options beside the capital punishment, the
public opinion overall is supportive. There have been additions to the punishments
such as long-term solitary confinement or lethal injections that put people “to
sleep.” These new practices may offer “excessive physical or mental pain,”
which for some people is correlated to cruel and unusual punishment. 2
A United Nations Secretary-General Andrew Gilmour believes that countries which
retain the death penalty “have something to hide” as they continue with these
injections manufactured by professionals. 3 Perhaps these secrets
are kept from the public to distribute unknown chemicals in vaccinations which
could impair the immune system? Or is that a step too far? U.N. Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres also claims that this practice is “a lack of respect” for the
convicted individual’s right to life. It is considered immoral to put these
humans through physical and mental torture as they understand the consequences
of their violent misbehaviors. Do mentally disabled criminals understand? Would
it be moral for them to be sentenced when they do not understand why they are
being put down? These questions are considered moot as Congress continues to
debate about the subject.

In the 21st century, criminal
rates are significant just as well as mental disabilities. Would it be
appropriate to believe that intellectual conditions are associated with
criminal acts? Some would give a fair argument of the question, but statistics
do not lie. With the use of current medical standards to identify the severity
of mental disorders, the Supreme Court can verify the need for death penalty
among an individual. There is no need to utilize dated medical standards that
could misdiagnose the criminal, leading to the ultimate decision of penalty.
Technology during the 1980’s through the 90’s did not obtain as much
information of neurological disorders as modern advanced automation and
discovery. Recent studies have also highlighted the correlation between
disorder and crime, which leaves a questionable analysis for the court as other
cases are discussed rationally. Differences in certain cases are to be
discussed as well as the need for current medical standards along with research
of mental disorders.


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