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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Texas Continues to Execute the Developmentally Disabled Despite Supreme Court Ruling.

It is unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded prisoners in the United States. The state of Texas, however, appears to have found a loophole, according to a published report. In the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling on Atkins v. Virginia, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "Because of their disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment, and control of their impulses ... [the mentally retarded] do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct." Because of this, the justices found it "cruel and unusual" to put the metally deficient to death, leaving it to the states to establish a framework by which such individuals could be identified in capital cases. Psychologist George Denkowski, an expert witness oft-used by Texas prosecutors, has been utilizing "junk science" to elevate the intelligence evaluation scores of mentally deficient death row prisoners, according to a new report in The Texas Observer.

However, Texas Governor Rick Perry rejected a bill that would have established rules to determine who is mentally retarded. Left grasping, courts invented their own criteria, turning to psychologists for the complicated evaluations. Having played a key part in two-thirds of the state's Atkins appeals, Dr. George Denkowski has built a lucrative practice off ensuring the mentally retarded are executed, his critics say. Denkowski's reputation for declaring prisoners fit to die has earned him "almost Dr. Death status," attorney Robert Morrow told reporter Reneé Feltz.

Since complaints were lodged against Denkowski, the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists has found that at least three of his cases were littered with scoring errors. Now Denkowski is facing a review by the state licensing board on Feb. 16, when his career as a psychologist could end. Already, three of the Atkins appeals he testified on have been placed on hold pending the outcome of the hearing. Denkowski evaluated 29 men in total; some have already been executed.

James: No surprise it's in Texas. They should change their name from "The Lone Star State" to "The Death State." There is absolutely no reason why we should be executing mentally retarded people. In my view that is no different than executing a young child who accidentally killed their parents. The mentally retarded don't know what they did was wrong, so put them on medications and monitor them in a mental institution. The world isn't black and white but has many shades of gray and mentally retarded criminals fit into one of those shades of gray. So, being able to keep society safe doesn't necessarily mean we have to resort to killing these mentally retarded prisoners. We have in America, a "death cult" and it seems to be centered in Texas. We are a war-like people who also kill people (via the death penalty) to show other people that killing is wrong. Now, does that sound like a logical thing to do? I'm starting to wonder who the real mentally retarded ones are, the prisoners or the citizens?

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12 comments:

Shinzen said...

Very sad...just want to say that there is a big difference between people who are labeled mentally ill and mentally retarded. First of all, You can be developmentally disabled but not mentally ill. These are two different situations.

Second, the term 'retarded' is actually as racist if I called an African American the 'n' word. It needs to be eliminated from our language. It is offensive.

Thirdly, not all people labeled with a mental illness are developmentally disabled and vice versa. Texas seems to lump these categories together...sad. People with a chronic mental illness are usually diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, not 'retardation'.

Sorry for getting on my soap box, but the Texas court system needs to get out of the 1950's.

They call him James Ure said...

Shinzen:

I don't disagree with anything you said. Yeah, mentally retarded isn't a word that I like either. I debated whether to use it at all but I left it in for continuity flow between the article and my comments.

I actually have a mental illness. It's a form of Schizophrenia called, Schizoaffective Disorder. It is Bipolar with some symptoms of Schizophrenia, which manifest for me as paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. I am on medications but they're not perfect to say the least. Nor are they a cure but that's a different story.

I agree with you that mentally retarded is beyond discriminatory and yes, the state of Texas does need to figure out the differences. It's amazing how many people think it actually IS possible to stay living, frozen in time -- in, the 1950s. It's amazing how many of us fight change.

Personally, though I'm against ANYONE being put to death. Including the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. Even terrorists unless as combatants on a battle field. Even then I'm don't encourage death but I understand that sometimes it can't be avoided.

I'm am a pacifist all the way up to when it comes to world wars and such. I think pacifism taken to the extreme of never defending humanity from the likes of Hitler isn't a moderate, middle-path position to take.

No worries about a soap box comment. I have a well-worn soapbox. :)

Shinzen said...

James: Thanks for your words. I have a brother who is developmentally disabled and a brother-in-law with paranoid schizophrenia. I have worked with people with both mental and physical 'disabilities' for years, so thanks for letting me stand up and shout.

阿牛 said...

Don't look down on Texas for this. Understand it as part of our culture which is going to be very slow to change (the death penalty, not executing the mentally retarded).

We have an overwhelming problem with the whole justice system, and this is just the most visible symptom.

Samuel said...

Just a quick FYI: The death penalty has NOT been shown to have any deterrent effect (often one of the reasons cited in favor of it).

Yeah, this is sad.

感冒 said...

愛,拆開來是心和受兩個字。用心去接受對方的一切,用心去愛對方的所有。.........................

tozan said...

I abhor the death penalty too, but I'm not sure that Samuel is right about its deterrent effect. Malcolm Gladwell and others cite figures that do demonstrate a deterrent effect. But does that justify judicial homicide?

As for the expression "mentally retarded," the statutes are themselves perennially retarded.

tozan said...

And I think 感冒 has got it right ...

Universal Compassion should be the foundation of our laws.

Samuel said...

Tozan. If you compare homicide rates between states with and without the death penalty, there isn't a significant difference.

It's been a while since I looked at the statistics - but if I recall, homicides also tend to peak when the state is performing more executions.

相信 said...

Everyone fastens where there is gain.........................................

Anonymous said...

I don't care if someone is mentally ill or not, if they murder someone they have to pay the price. I recall some guy got off after killing a guy on a bus..he cut his head off and ate parts from him. He should have been put down like you would a rabid animal.

They call him James Ure said...

@Anonymous...Well, for one, there is a difference between the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled.

Developmentally disabled means their brain is deformed and therefore unable to think logically. Therefore, how can you execute such a person?

In a lot of ways, the developmentally disabled are like children and I know you wouldn't be for executing children.

They should still be isolated from society in institutions for the criminally insane. However, how can they pay the price of execution for a crime they committed without knowing right from wrong?

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