The Death Penalty and The Mentally Retarded - a brief overview of the injustice of allowing mentally retarded persons to be put to death under the death penalty

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The Death Penalty and The Mentally Retarded

In the U.S. today the estimated amount of people suffering from mental retardation ranges from six to eight million people. A very controversial issue dealing with this segment of society is whether or not they should have to face the death penalty. Many people believe in an "eye for an eye", that if they kill someone then they should die also. The question arises, what if the person who killed someone is mentally retarded, how do you punish them? If the person who committed the heinous crime does not understand what they did is wrong, is it fair to punish them? For many years this issue has been argued and has gone both ways. Many mentally retarded people have been executed, but yet many have been able to avoid execution by being placed in a mental institution. Still, twenty-five of the fifty states allow people who are mentally retarded to receive the death penalty as a punishment for their actions, and it should be eliminated from the united states completely.

To be deemed mentally retarded, a person must have an IQ lower than seventy, have been diagnosed before the age of eighteen, and have a history of mental or psychotic behavior. There are only two percent of the general public that would fall into this category. One of the major problems that the mentally retarded have had to deal with are stated in the Human Rights Watch Publications.

Indeed, from the moment of arrest a suspect with mental retardation is likely to relinquish key legal protections. Being characteristically suggestible and eager to please persons in authority, and unable to cope with stressful situations, many detainees with mental retardation wave their right to remain silent; some even make false confessions (summary 3).

One example...