Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Atkins MR/ID Death Penalty Court Decisions: If ID/MR, why not MI (mental illness)? Two recent death penalty court decisions

It was only a matter of time before non-ID death penalty cases, where a client is purported to have mental illness, cites Atkins as a mitigating factor. Thanks to Kevin Foley for drawing my attention to the Texas case of Ripkowski v Thaler (TX, 2011) and the Ohio case of Lang v Ohio (2011).

Both cases deal with the suggestion that Atkins v Virginia should be extended to defendants with mental illness. As the concurring opinion in Lang stated, "If executing persons with mental retardation/ developmental disabilities or executing juveniles offends “evolving standards of decency,” Roper, 543 U.S. at 563, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1, then I simply cannot comprehend why these
same standards of decency have not yet evolved to also prohibit execution of
persons with severe mental illness at the time of their crimes
." Lang, pg 76

The decisions indicate that the courts do not yet want to go down this "slippery slope."

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