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Only thirteen states forbid execution of the mentally retarded: AR, CO, GA, IN, KS, KY, MD, NE, NM, NY*, SD, TN, WA, and U.S.
*except for murder by a prisoner


To be  considered mentally retarded, the condition must reach back to the childhood.

Ricky Ray Rector

Rector was accustomed to placing his dessert in a corner of the cell to be eaten just before he went to sleep. After he had been led to his execution, guards found his dessert in its usual place, waiting to be eaten. Rector had no idea what being executed meant.

No Death Penalty For Persons With Severe Mental Illnesses

Statement By Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director 

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Contact: Mary Rappaport 703/312-7886                

Valerie Rheinstein 703/516-7963

For Immediate Release
12 Jan 98

NAMI strongly empathizes with those families whose lives are forever changed by the death and destruction allegedly caused by Ted Kaczynski. These needless acts of violence were heinous, senseless and tragic. While people must be held responsible for their actions, we believe the death penalty is never appropriate for a defendant suffering from schizophrenia or other serious brain disorders.

The case of Mr. Kaczynski strikes an all too familiar and painful chord for NAMI families. Many NAMI families are faced with the agony of watching their loved ones deteriorate without being able to do anything about it. While violence is no more common in people receiving medication for schizophrenia than in the general population, family members often have legitimate concerns about potential criminal behavior on the part of their ill family member. In such cases, families also may fear for their own safety, or the safety of the community.

Experts who have examined Mr. Kaczynski and his writings agree that he suffers from schizophrenia, a brain disorder, which typically is characterized by paranoid delusions and severely impaired insight. While the symptoms of serious brain disorders such as schizophrenia can be controlled with medications in most cases, it is not uncommon for persons with this devastating disease to deny their illness or need for treatment. In fact, scientific studies reveal that about half of all persons with schizophrenia do not understand that they are sick and require medical treatment.

      NAMI praises David Kaczynski for his courage in turning his brother into the authorities. His decision reflects the agony families experience in balancing their love and support for their family member with their concern for protecting the public's safety.

This case illustrates the fundamental disconnection between law and science. The legal criteria for evaluating crimes committed by persons with severe mental illnesses were developed some 200 years ago. Conversely, medical professionals are able to accurately diagnose schizophrenia and other serious brain disorders due to remarkable scientific discoveries. Scientists also have established that schizophrenia impairs mental capacity in many cases. In view of this progress, a diagnosis of schizophrenia by a qualified medical expert should serve as a reason not to execute a criminal defendant.

NAMI urges Attorney General Janet Reno to reconsider the government's opposition to a plea arrangement in the prosecution of Ted Kaczynski. We oppose the death penalty for persons with severe mental illnesses, and believe it would be cruel, inhumane and barbaric to sentence Mr. Kaczynski to death. If found guilty, he should be sentenced to a lifetime of treatment in a secure, locked facility where he can perpetrate no further harms.

With more than 168,000 members, NAMI is the nation's leading grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.


Mario Marquez

IQ of 60 and the skills of a 7-year- old

"I want to be God's gardener and take care of the animals" 

Doil Lane

IQ: 62-70, emotional and intellectual development of an 8-year-old child.

After he confessed, he climbed into the lap of a Texas Ranger to whom he had confessed. 

I like to clore (color) in my clorel (coloring) book but you all tuck (took) away my clores when you can not hurt no one with a box 24 clores, just in my book"

Ramon Martinez-Villareal 

IQ: 50, brain damage, schizophrenia and dementia.

His lawyer did not mention his client's mental retardation.  Since the evidence of his mental retardation has emerged, the trial judge and the prosecutor have said that he should not be executed. Nevertheless he remains on death row.


(Association for Retarded Citizens)

There are several possibilities for miscommunication when a person with mental retardation comes in contact with a person in authority. The Arc has put together a list of some common responses that may affect a person with mental retardation's ability to protect their rights during police contact.

The person may:

not want disability to be recognized (and try to cover it up)

not understand rights (but pretend to understand)

not understand commands

be overwhelmed by police presence

act upset at being detained and/or run away

say what he or she thinks others want to hear

have difficulty describing facts or details of offense

be the first to leave the scene of the crime, and the first to get caught

be confused about who is responsible for the crime and "confess" even though innocent. 


(American Association for Mentally Retarded) Fact Sheet on The Death Penalty and People with Mental retardation states:

People with mental retardation function at lower levels, both adaptively and intellectually, than the population at large.

People with mental retardation are often impulsive, which may result in acts that people of average abilities could refrain from-The Death Penalty is disproportionate to the level of culpability possible for people with mental retardation-   Executing people with mental retardation does not serve justice.

The AAMR also states that:

People with mental retardation should not be eligible for the death penalty. This is not to suggest that people with mental retardation should not be punished when they break the law, nor does it suggest that people with mental retardation are not responsible for their actions.

It suggests that people with mental retardation cannot be held culpable for crimes to the extent that the death penalty would be considered an appropriate punishment.


Who's crazy - the people on the inside or the outside?  

Russell Weston, the paranoid schizophrenic who killed two U.S. Capitol Police officers in 1998, is not getting treatment for his mental illness because if he were treated and recovered enough to stand trial, he might get the death penalty. In other words, to stave off the threat of execution, he has to stay sick. 

To cure him could kill him. His lawyers, on the outside, apparently think this is rational. Even humane. By not treating a treatable disease and relieving pain, they are conceivably saving a life. Who's crazy now? The death penalty has introduced this medical paradox. 

The law is clear that states are not allowed to execute the insane. In 1992, the Louisiana Supreme Court decided that the state could not mandate treatment in order to make a convict well enough to be executed. The "medicate-to-execute" scheme would violate the prisoner's constitutional rights to privacy and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. 

So Michael Owen Perry, a paranoid schizophrenic who blasted his relatives away with a shotgun nearly 20 years ago, remains on death row, chattering loudly to himself about God, the Mafia and Olivia Newton-John, according to news reports. How do we feel about letting people slowly succumb to a disease when there is treatment available to help them? This is what happened in the terrible Tuskegee experiment half a century ago when black Americans were left without effective treatment for syphilis so researchers could study the natural course of the disease. 

The Clinton administration officially apologized for that outrage. 

Withholding treatment when effective therapy is available and a patient could benefit from it is, on the face of it, immoral. But the death penalty has turned medical ethics upside down. To be sure, the purpose of medicine is to relieve suffering and help patients overcome illness and injury. 

Advances in psychiatric medicine - better drugs, better therapeutic services - have brought new hope into the mental health field. At the same time, physicians are also supposed to follow the dictum: Do no harm. Medicating patients so that they can be executed would certainly constitute "doing harm." In this way, physicians can justify to themselves not treating a treatable problem. It is a choice between the lesser of 2 harms.

 "The eventual suffering of death is worse than suffering without treatment," says Michael Perlin, professor of law at New York Law School. "What is the most suffering? What is less suffering?"

 As Perlin points out, physicians inflict suffering on their patients all the time in order to prevent death. Look at invasive surgeries and powerful drug treatments: open heart surgery that cracks open ribs and reroutes blood vessels and toxic chemotherapy that wipes out the immune system. These "harmful" treatments are prescribed in the pursuit of a cure - to prevent the greater harm of dying from the disease. 

So, how harmful can it be to go without medication for schizophrenia if non-treatment can prevent the greater harm of dying by execution? Today about 3,700 people are on death row. Many have some form of mental illness. But very few are too insane to be executed.

 "The standard for being found mentally incompetent is hard to reach," says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "It's rare that anybody gets spared for this reason." There's not a lot of sympathy for people who have been convicted of horrendous crimes, no matter what their state of mind. But the paradox, where to cure 'em is to kill 'em, does grievous harm to the medical profession. 

Physicians and mental health workers who take care of prisoners can't be "good" doctors - neither good-competent nor good-moral. "It puts conscientious mental health professionals in a very difficult position," says Michael Radelet, chairman of the sociology department at the University of Florida and author of "Executing the Mentally Ill.

" That violation of medical ethics has broader implications. Whatever people think of the death penalty, the medical paradox on death row defies common sense - and common decency. 

(source: Washington Post)


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