Justices allow execution despite mental disability claim
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Dr. Bolter concluded that, as a child, Petitioner appeared to have a conduct disorder, educational problems, and attention deficit disorder, and, as an adult, had more of an antisocial or sociopathic personality, continued attention difficulty, and a rapid rate of forgetting. See Pet. App. 122a-23a. Dr. Guin concluded that Brumfield's childhood was "very chaotic, [and] very complicated" and he had a non-supportive environment at home. See Pet. App. 124a.Trial counsel passed on the powerful mitigator of retardation to avoid undercutting his "mitigating" evidence of "antisocial or sociopathic personality"? Come off it. Sociopathy is aggravating!
The U.S. military has its own laws and court system separate from those of the states and the federal government. Although the military justice system allows the death penalty, no executions have been carried out in over 50 years. The last execution was the hanging on April 13, 1961 of U.S. Army Private John Bennett for rape and attempted murder. The military death penalty law was struck down in 1983 but was reinstated in 1984 with new rules detailing the aggravating circumstances that make a case death-eligible. Only about one-third of the capital cases tried under this law resulted in a death sentence. As of 1997, military law allows for an alternative sentence of life without parole. Six men are currently on the military death row, which is housed in the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The President has the power to commute any military death sentence. A 2012 study indicated that defendants of color in the military were twice as likely to be sentenced to death as white defendants.
A county judge in Georgia denied relief for Warren Hill, a death row inmate whose diagnosed intellectual disabilities have failed to meet the state's narrow standard for exemption from the death penalty. However, the judge encouraged the state Supreme Court to consider whether a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Hall v. Florida, should require Georgia to modify its standard. Chief Judge Thomas Wilson of Butts County said, "In light of the severity of the penalty in this case, this Court hopes that, in reviewing [Mr. Hill's] application to appeal, the Georgia Supreme Court will fully consider any potential application of Hall v. Florida to [his] case." In Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court directed Florida to broaden its interpretation of intellectual disability. Florida refused to spare an inmate whose IQ was just one point above their cutoff. Similarly, Georgia has the narrowest standard of proof for intellectual disability in the entire country, requiring defendants to prove their disability beyond a reasonable doubt. Brian Kammer, an attorney for Hill, said,"Mr. Hill should not be eligible for execution in a nation which does not execute persons with intellectual disability, and he would not be eligible for execution in any other jurisdiction in the nation."
The victim's family in Hill's case has also said that they do not support his execution. Several jurors from his trial have said that they would have recommended a sentence of life without parole if it had been an option at the time. National and state organizations focusing on intellectual disabilities have supported Hill's claim. President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter have called for a commutation of Mr. Hill's death sentence to life without parole. Additionally, the American Bar Association, the ACLU, and the Council of Europe have all called for sparing Hill's life.
(Hill v. Chatman, Order, September 29, 2014; E. Jacobson (Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities), "The Supreme Court Must Stop the Execution of Warren Hill," Huffington Post, February 11, 2013). See Intellectual Disability and Supreme Court.
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper available on SSRN authored by Christopher Slobogin. Here is the abstract:
The Supreme Court's decision in Hall v. Florida holds that "clinical definitions" control the meaning of intellectual disability in the death penalty context. In other words, the Court "scientized" the definition of intellectual disability. This article discusses the implications of this unprecedented move. It also introduces the idea of scientific stare decisis — a requirement that groups that are scientifically alike be treated similarly for culpability purposes — as a means of implementing the scientization process.
Suspects/Offenders' Issues Series:
Alternatives to Incarceration for Criminal Offenders with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities
Jessica S. Oppenheim, Esq.
Director of the Criminal Justice Advocacy Program of The Arc of New Jersey
Criminal Offenders with developmental and intellectual disabilities (I/DD) present unique challenges to the criminal justice system seeking to investigate and prosecute crime as well as to the social service system seeking to serve and assist this vulnerable population. Such individuals make up at least 9 – 10% of the prison population and some studies tell us that they may comprise as much as 50% of adult and juvenile offender populations. It is unquestioned that individuals with I/DD face distinct disadvantages in the system, resulting in convictions for more serious offenses and more prison time.
The Criminal Justice Advocacy Program (CJAP) of The Arc of NJ seeks to overcome these disadvantages, while still ensuring that offenders take responsibility for criminal behavior, by arranging specific interventions that provide alternatives to incarceration through offender-specific Personalized Justice Plans. The CJAP also acts as a clearinghouse of information between the criminal justice and social service system in provide training and communication between the two systems. This webinar will review the obstacles and disadvantages faced by this population and provide an overview of the CJAP. Register here.
The Arc's National Center on Criminal
Justice & Disability (NCCJD)
MISSION: NCCJD will become the national focal point for the collection and dissemination of resources and serve as a bridge between justice and I/DD professionals. NCCJD will pursue and promote safety, fairness and justice for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as suspects, offenders, victims or witnesses. For more information: http://www.thearc.org/NCCJD
Kathryn J. Walker, J.D., M.P.H.
Criminal Justice Fellow
1825 K Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington, D.C. 20036
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