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The law is very clear when it comes the rights of the accused. The accused person is often protected by the law, and it is often the work of the court to determine whether the person is fit to live with him for a short time. There is a need for the law to be very clear when it comes to investigating cases, providing legal guidance and collecting evidence.
The term crime denotes a behavior that is negative and that one should be punished for by the State. The notions that acts such as theft, murder and rape are prohibited exists worldwide. It is important to understand that what precisely is referred to as a criminal offence is defined by the criminal law of that country. There is a need for protection from different people in the society. For example, there is a need for protection from the police.
There is also a need for the society as a whole to protect each other by ensuring that dangerous crimes are not left out. Further, there are even those that suffer from mental retardation. There are those that can cause harm to themselves and others. Therefore, for the good of the society, they are often locked in order to ensure that they do not cause harm to these in the society that could have been harmed.
Read about criminal law and rights
The use of drugs has increased in the United States. This is especially in regards to the use of hard drugs. There has been tremendous growth in the new areas as more people want more, and there is supply of the drugs. Drugs often change the thinking of a person, and this might be the reason as to why persons decide to decide often not to make important decisions before or after their use.
Walker, S. (2005). Sense and nonsense about crime and drugs: A policy guide. Belmont, Calif: Thomson/Wadsworth.
The capital punishment, as it is provided in the law, is often required to be reserved for the category of the most serious offenders. These are people that are referred to as the worst of the worst. International standards often provide specific populations who should never be subjected to execution and they include, children, women that are pregnant and ‘the insane’. In between the year 2010 and 2013, there were only 31 countries all over the world that carried out executions. In fact, the overwhelming majority of states in the world do not resort to the capital punishment. However, while the death penalty remains it is critical to realize that indeed the persons with mental disabilities are still at risk of being sentenced to death and executed in breach of international standards (Tabak, 2005).
The world Health Organization often defines not only in terms of physical health but also with respect to mental health. In fact, according to WHO, a person that has good mental health can be said to be a person that has a state of well-being where he or she realizes his or her abilities and understands the normal life stresses and can be able to make a contribution to his or her community (Columbus School of Law, 2005). However, in contrast, the mental ill or those with mental disorder comprises of several conditions that are characterized by impairment of cognition, the social and emotional function that is caused by psychosocial or biological factors.
It is also of important to note that in other cases, the impairments of intellectual capacity can occur, and they might, therefore, result into developmental orders. Therefore, both types of disorders and impairments are known to affect behavior, decision making as well as the culpability for actions and therefore, for this reason, they are often widely considered in legal process and this includes capital trials (Tabak, 2005).
Mental illness can often be alleviated by treatment and can be said not to be related to intellectual capacity (Reardon et al., 2007). However, an intellectual disability that is at many times called mental retardation in legal as well as medical texts that start earlier than the age of 18 is lifelong and is often manifested by sub-average intellectual capacity.
For centuries, there have been a widespread understanding that indeed persons that commit crimes while affected at the time or consequently by insanity should be exempted from the death penalty based on the view that these persons lack the understanding regarding their actions, and consequently they can be said to have had a lesser level of culpability (Slobogin, 2000).
In those countries that were influenced by English Common law, legal thinking was guided by the opinion of distinguished Jurists such as Sir Edward Coke who in the year 1680 argued that it was the purpose of the law that a killing should be an example to the public and that when a mad man is executed, it should be a miserable spectacle for both against the law and also extreme inhumanity as well as cruelty and consequently it cannot be said to be an example to other people (Wallace, 1996).
In the 19th century, there was a landmark ruling that changed the fate of the mentally ill in the criminal Justice system. It occurred in the British House of Lords, and it occurred in the case of M’Naughten –and currently the laws are referred to as the M’Naughten Rules of 1843 (Wallace, 1996). The law stated that in order to acquit an accused for the reasons of insanity, there is a need or the defense to make a clear case that at the time of committing the act, the party that is accused was laboring under a defect of reason, from a disease of the mind and therefore, did not comprehend the nature and the quality of the act that he was committing (Tabak, 2005).
It is critical to note that by the late 20th century, the United States Supreme Court echoed these earlier observations and they concluded in the case that is referred to as Ford v. Wainwright that the judgments at common law for not excusing the execution when it comes to insane people (Tabak, 2005). This is because the execution can be said to be of a questionable retributive value, and it also does not in any present an example to others, it does not possess any deterrence value and consequently, it can simply be said to offend humanity (Kermani & Drob, 1988).
It is critical to realize that indeed since that ruling that occurred in the year 1986,it has been found unconstitutional to execute people that are unaware of the punishment that they are about to suffer and the reason as to why they are suffering it (Kermani & Drob, 1988). However, in practice, this has provided a weak protection for the people that have serious mental conditions.
There are significant gaps that currently exist in the legal protection that is accorded to the severely mentally ill defendants who are charged or even convicted of a capital crime (Leong et al. 1993). It is important to realize that indeed the United States still allow the execution of the mentally ill and in fact, this problem cannot be described as a small one.
There have been several estimates by researchers that show that indeed five to around ten percent of all the inmates that are on death row suffer from a severe mental illness (Wallace, 1996). Mental illness can be described as phenomenon which often knifes across the entire corpus of the criminal justice system (Leong et al. 1993). In fact, from interrogations to waivers of Miranda rights, mental illness often wraps the machinery of the criminal law and it often challenges the cherished assumptions regarding the free will, culpability as well as decisional competence.
Mental Illness and Capital Trials
It is of the essence to realize that since the year 1976, all the capital trials that have transpired in the U.S have been divided into two phases (Tabak, 2005). The first phase involves the questions regarding to whether the defendant is innocent or guilty of the charged offense. In fact, if the defendant is found guilty when it come to the first phase of, murder and he or she is eligible for the death penalty in that particular jurisdiction, the defendant can then face the second phase. When it come to the penalty phase, the jury often decides whether to recommend a life sentence or either a death sentence for the defendant (Kermani & Drob, 1988).
Mental illness can be described as being extremely important to several legal questions when it comes to capital trials. The first issue is regarding police interrogation. It has been noted by many researchers that indeed those that suffer from mental illness are in most cases more vulnerable to cave into police pressure and consequently they are more likely to give false confessions (Kermani & Drob, 1988). There have been several empirical studies which have demonstrated that indeed there are several characteristics which are associated with mental illness and consequently, they can lead to false confessions (Leong et al. 1993).
They include deficits when it comes to cognitive processing, extreme compliance, impulsivity, and delusions. It has also been noted by several researchers that mentally ill defendants often have significant issues when it comes to understanding Miranda rights regarding to self-incrimination and also regarding to their access to have an attorney. In fact, most mentally ill persons have been known to waive the attorney privilege when it comes to police interrogation (Leong et al. 1993). Therefore, the people with mental illness who are facing interrogation by the police are often more likely to waive their rights and this is because they do not understand them and consequently they are likely to make a false confession (Winick, 2009).
Ability to form criminal intent
It is of the essence to realize that indeed most capital murder statutes often require that the State be able to prove beyond what can be stated to be a reasonable apprehension that the defendant expressly intended to kill the victim (Wallace, 1996). However, in most capital defendants that suffer from mental illness, they lack the capacity to effectively form a precise intent to kill at the time of the offense.
For example, in a troubling decision, Clark v. Arizona, the U.S Supreme Court held that indeed such defendants do not have a constitutional right when it comes to presenting evidence that they suffered from a mental illness that is serious which shows that they did not have any specific intention to kill (Davidson & Rosky, 2015). In fact, in the dissent, Justice Kennedy, argued that the Court was incorrect in holding that indeed the State of Arizona may convict a petitioner for first degree murder for the intentional or even the knowing killing of a police officer and the defendant was not given the right to introduce critical as well as reliable evidence which showed clearly that he did not have the knowledge or even the intent (Davidson & Rosky, 2015).
Competency to Stand trial
It is of the real meaning to understand that indeed the defendant must be competent enough to stand trial and this is under the United States constitution (French, 2005). A competency hearing often determines whether indeed the defendant has a rational or even a factual understanding when it comes to the proceedings and also whether the defendant has the ability to consult in an effective manner with his or her attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding.
For example, it is important to a defendant that has Schizophrenia to be well understood and this is because he or she is often prone to severe delusions and in most instances he or she has lost total contact with reality and for this reason, he or she cannot be able to meaningfully consult with his or her lawyer. Therefore, there is a need for the mentally ill to be declared as being incompetent to stand trial.
In reality, the competency trial which is applied by courts can be described as being low bar and consequently, courts or even juries often routinely find that indeed the severe mentally ill defendants including those that are regarded to as capital defendants at times meet the basic test of competency (Wallace, 1996). Therefore, this means that just because one is schizophrenic or even delusional, this does not mean that he or she will not be found incompetent to stand trial.
In fact, in most instances it has been observed that if a trial judge resolves that a capital defendant is unable to stand trial (Ellis, 2007). Then the defendant in most instances is typically transferred to mental hospitals where the state doctors are given the task to try and improve the state of the defendants mental state in order for the defendant to meet the competency to stand trial. In the case of Sell v United States, the Supreme Court set lucid rules in regards to when a defendant who is not dangerous to himself or other people can be forcibly medicated versus his or her will in order for the defendant to be rendered as being competent to stand trial (Kermani & Drob, 1988).
Under what is currently referred to as Sell, forcible medication should be limited to several different rare circumstances where medication is medically appropriate and it is more likely to not to have side effects that threaten the legitimacy of the trial. Lastly, the medication should be necessary to significantly further the government trial related interests and this should be done after taking into account other different available alternatives. Therefore, under these rules, the government cannot force a defendant to receive medication if counseling can be described as being a possible alternative or if the side effects of the medicine can render the defendant able to be able to participate meaningfully in his or her defense at trial.
Although there exists several differences that can be deemed as being important amongst the states, insanity can generally be regarded to as a defense to the crime that must be raised and consequently proved by the defense (Diamond, 1975). It is critical to realize that the most common insanity test, is often referred to as the M’Naghten test’ and it indeed asks whether the defendant was unable to understand completely what he or she was doing at the time of crime (Diamond, 1975).
This can be because of a defect of reason or disease of the mind. It is often assumed if the defendant was not aware of what he or she was doing, and then he or she failed to understand the consequences that came with the decision and what was going on. The American Law Institute test can be described as the second most used test when it comes to insanity. The ALI test often asks whether the defendant at the time of the crime lacked substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality that came with his conduct, or to conform his conduct to what can be stated to be the requirements of the law (Kermani & Drob, 1988).
It is of the essence to note that indeed, under either of the test, there are several juries that frequently reject the insanity defenses when it comes to capital cases and this is despite strong evidence which shows that indeed the defendants were at the time of crime suffering from serious mental illnesses when they were committing the crime (Wallace, 1996).
Part of the explanation is often the fear that is created by the public. For example, the high-profile acquittal of John Hinckley Jr. on insanity grounds after an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan was met with backlash. In fact, in some states, the legislatures responded to the backlash by creating a new verdict referred to as ‘guilty but mentally ill.' It is critical to realize that unfortunately, many jurors were at the time unaware that a guilty but mentally ill verdict is identical to the guilty verdict for the defendants and consequently, a capital defendant who is found by the court as being guilty but mentally ill, can still face the death penalty and consequently execution.
There have been three main cases that have changed the landscape regarding mental illness and the capital punishment in the United States. They are often described as being the Key Supreme Court cases that have shed light on the issue of mental illness and whether indeed there is a need to execute those that have committed a crime, but they suffered or continue to suffer from mental illness and insanity.
Ford v. Wainwright
In the year 1974, Alvin Ford was convicted of murder and consequently he was sentenced to death. In the year 1982, Ford started to show signs of what was abnormal behavior, and this indicated that he had a mental disorder. A psychiatrist was sent to examine him, and he concluded that indeed Ford did not understand why he was being executed and, in fact, he did not make any connection between the murder that he had committed and his death sentence.
Ford Counsel decided to invoke the Florida’s procedure for the determination of a condemned prisoner competency. The Governor of Florida at the time appointed a panel of three psychiatrists in order to evaluate whether indeed Ford had the mental capacity to understand the nature of the death penalty and the basis as to why it was being imposed on him. The psychiatrists never agreed on the exact diagnosis buy they agreed that indeed Ford was sane under this definition. The Governor continued to sign the death warrant for Ford’s execution.
Ford’s attorneys were unsuccessful when they tried to sough a hearing in the State Court to determine the competency of Ford. The United States Supreme Court decided to granted a certiorari review in order to determine whether the Eighth Amendment forbade the execution of the insane and whether the district court should have in any way held a hearing in order to listen to Ford’s Claim (Greenspan, 2009).
With respect to the first issue, the Court held that indeed under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, there is prohibition of inflicting the penalty of death upon a prisoner that is considered insane and who is in any not aware of the consequences of his actions and the reason as to why he or she is being executed. The rationale for this conclusion was found in English Common law which held that such an execution has questionable retributive value, and consequently, it does not have any deterrent value and consequently, it can be said to offend humanity.
In regards to the second issue, the Court concluded that indeed the Florida’s procedure for determining the sanity of death row could be described as being not adequate in order to afford a full as well as a fair hearing (Greenspan, 2009). The determination of Ford’s sanity was an important matter, and this is because it would decide whether indeed he lived or died, and there was a need for Ford to be given the chance to present the case. He was denied the chance to challenge or even impeach the state-appointed psychiatrist’s opinion, and the ultimate decision was unfortunately placed within the executive branch of the State (Greenspan, 2009).
The Court, therefore, found that there was an inadequate procedure in Florida, and this denied Ford what can be described as his constitutional right towards the due process. Accordingly, it is critical to realize that Ford was entitled to a new evidentiary hearing in a federal district court on the question of his competence.
The Supreme Court also ruled that indeed States should always try to ensure that they satisfy the due process by providing an impartial officer on board who can receive evidence ad argument from the counsel of the prisoner. This includes the presentation of expert psychiatric evidence. Further, beyond these requirements, there is also the need or the state to retain the substantial discretion when it comes to the creation of other appropriate procedures.
Panetti v. Quarterman
Scott Panetti in one of the landmark cases regarding mental illness and the capital punishment was allowed to defend himself in a trial in Texas. It is critical to realize that indeed this was despite his schizophrenia and other 14 stints in several mental hospitals. He argued that it was the devil who had forced his actions when he perpetrated his offense. The U.S Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held that indeed Panetti’s perception that he had performed a crime and was to be punished, or it was, in fact, sufficient to establish his competency.
The question which at the time was presented to the Supreme Court was indeed whether mere awareness of one’s act could be equated with competence mentally or whether a person needs to rationally understand the events that are about to take place. The Court ruled that indeed Panetti deserved a rehearing on his claims of mental incompetence. The Court further held that indeed the 5th circuit had used an overly restrictive definition when it came to insanity and that the Texas Court had failed to provide Panetti with a review of claims of mental incompetence which was guaranteed under the constitution.
The Court used the precedence of Ford’s case and therefore, held that at a minimum, a court should often allow the prisoner’s counsel the opportunity to make a reply to the state’s testimony of the prisoner’s competency to be executed. Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority and stated that there were gross delusions that had stemmed from severe mental disorders and consequently had put an awareness of a link between a crime and its punishment in a context which was so far removed from a reality that the punishment can sever no purpose that can be stated to be proper (Davidson & Rosky, 2015).
It is, therefore, erroneous to derive a strict test when it comes to competency that treats delusional beliefs as being irrelevant once the prisoner is aware that the state has identified the link between the crime and the punishment that should be inflicted. It is extremely important to realize that indeed the Court, however, did not set forth its definition of insanity, and it stated that it did not attempt to set down a rule that would eventually govern all the competency determinations.
Execution of Individuals with Mental Retardation fails the Criminal justice system
It is critical to understand that indeed in addition to an international consensus that exists on excluding individuals that have mental retardation from the death penalty the goals of the criminal justice system can also be said to be ill served when people with mental retardation are executed. As identified, by most courts in the world there are often three main pillars and goals that are served by the capital punishment and they include retribution, deterrence as well as incapacitation.
The first goal that is retribution often refers to the idea that the offenders should be punished because of committing crimes and in doing so they freely violate the currently existing social rules. However, when looking at the individuals that have mental illness and retardation, the idea of voluntarily violating social rules can be said to be complicated. This is because people with severe mental disabilities are often considered as being blameless, and they are often excused from the crimes based on insanity grounds. Further, those that are perceived as having lesser impairments sometimes receive reduced sentences.
It is of the essence to note that in the United States Case Atkins v. Virginia, the court held that the people who have mental retardation often have what can be stated as diminished capacities to understand as well as process information and learn from experience (Davidson & Rosky, 2015). For this reason, their execution can be said not to measurably contribute to the goals of retribution or even deterrence. In the discussion regarding the main goal of retribution, the Court noted that indeed, there is lesser culpability of the mentally retarded offenders to be given the capital punishment.
The second goal of the capital punishment is deterrence. Deterrence often focuses on the consequences and it refers to the idea that indeed the society should punish the individuals up to the point where the marginal cost of what can be described as additional punishment equals the marginal benefit of the prevented crimes (Greenspan, 2009). Therefore, it is critical to note that the goal functions in one or two ways. First, it increases the certainty of punishment that deters potential offenders, and this is often due to the risk of apprehension.
Secondly, it is critical to realize that the type or even the severity of the punishment should be enough to deter potential offenders. This is because they can weigh the consequences of their actions and consequently decide that indeed the risk of the punishment is too great. However, as elaborated by the Court in the case of Atkins, the individuals that have mental illness often have diminished capacities to understand as well as process information and consequently the calculated component that is most of the times behind deterrence is unlikely to affect them (Davidson & Rosky, 2015). Further, it is necessary to note that in regards to deterrence, the Court in Atkins specifically indicated that the people that have mental retardation in most instances are often less likely to process the information of the possible of execution as a penalty and consequently, they are in most instances less likely to be deterred by the information.
The third goal is incapacitation and it often refers to the idea that by individuals that have committed crimes being sent to prison and being subjected to the death penalty, these individuals will no longer be able to conduct crimes like those that they are currently being punished for (Greenspan, 2009). It is of the essence to concede that indeed research indicates that perceived dangerousness of the offender can be stated to be the most influential factor when it comes to the death penalty proceedings and therefore, the reason some view permanent incapacitation as a goal when it comes to the death penalty.
However, there has been broad research on the subject and it does not support the idea that people that have mental disorders and this includes mental retardation can be described as being more dangerous (Greenspan, 2009). In fact, the base rate or violence amongst the people that have mental disorders is no higher and can probably be lower as compared to the base rate of the offenders who do not have mental disorders.
Therefore, from this argument it can be seen that indeed the idea that the permanent incapacitation of individuals that have mental retardation and that it helps to serve the goal of removing dangerous individuals from the society lacks any clear credibility. In fact, these individuals are often no more dangerous as compared to the average individual.
Global Human rights
It is important to realize that indeed human rights law has often focused on the protection of the dignity o the individuals that have mental disorders. The death penalty exception from the human rights law perspective has often evolved and this is because the intellectually disabled are often ranked as being one of the most vulnerable and at risk populations and this is because they are both different and that their disabilities often renders them as being less able to assert their rights or even to protect themselves against any blatant discrimination (Greenspan, 2009). Human Rights Watch have often stated that indeed because of the mental retardation of the defendants, these women and men cannot be able in any way to fully understand what they did wrong and in fact most of them cannot even comprehend the punishment that awaits them.
The individuals that have mental disabilities can be described as having a difficult time when it comes to the presentation of their case in court and consequently they are often more vulnerable to improper sentencing (Greenspan, 2009). For example, it is of importance to realize that individuals who have mental disabilities are often less knowledgeable about their right regarding not to self-incriminate themselves and not answer any questions without the advice of a lawyer. Further, another important point to note is that in court, Juries sometimes interpret the actions of such individuals as demonstrating what can be said to be a lack of remorse and therefore, their mental deficiency can be said to be in most cases an aggravating factor in the capital sentencing as compared to being a mitigating factor (Davidson & Rosky, 2015).
Despite the enormous support for the exclusion of mentally ill defendants from the capital punishment, there are still reports of the execution of such individuals throughout the world. In order to understand why these cases still occur, it is important to examine the inconsistency that exists in the States in the U.S. In the Atkins v. Virginia case, the Supreme Court embraced two clinical definitions when it came to mental retardation. It is important to realize that one was supplied by the American Association of Mental Retardation, and the other was supplied by the American Psychiatric Association.
The Court held that the state’s measures when it comes to mental retardation in capital cases can be considered as being constitutional, and this is as long as they generally conform to several clinical definitions (Davidson & Rosky, 2015). However, the Court left the task of the creation of appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction to the States.
It is of importance to realize that in doing so, the Court gave States the discretion over their procedural aspects of implementation of the categorical exemption and this included whether the determinations of mental retardation should be made by a judge or by a jury and whether the determination should occur before or even after the guilt-innocence trials. In response to this directive, States have often developed a myriad of procedures.
For example, it is critical to realize that there are some states which often leave the task of the determination of mental retardation solely to the jury, while others often leave the task to a judge. There are however, still others which allow for such a determination to be made by either the jury or the judge. There are still some state legislatures which have even refused to address the different procedures that have been recommended by the Supreme Court in the implementation of Atkins altogether.
While there exists substantial state discretion as well as lack of procedures in different states to guarantee the protections that are put in place by the Atkins, the goal of exempting individuals who have mental retardation from the death penalty cannot be in any way realized in practice. This has especially proven true because several States have taken the Court’s ruling and this allows the States to develop what can be stated to be procedural rule as permission to deviate from the court and recognize that individuals with mental illness and retardation in most instances have a wide variety of needs and abilities.
Therefore, these recognized definitions can be said not to allow for the exclusion criteria. This is the criteria which often automatically exempts an individual from qualifying as being mentally retarded. It is important to note that there are some courts which have been found to apply the exclusion criteria by stereotyping and sometimes incorrectly categorizing individuals. This has consequently resulted into what can be said to be an improper application of Atkins and the execution of different defendants who can be said to qualify under the constitution for protection which was established in the case.
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