Defending those facing the death penalty brings Terry Lenamon into the heart of the issue of mental illness in this country and how that does (as opposed to should) impact the imposing of capital punishment on those convicted of serious crimes.
Mental Illness is an Issue in All Death Penalty Cases
We discuss aspects of mental illness and the death penalty regularly on this blog, because it is key to both the determination of guilt as well as the sentencing phase of any death penalty case and goes to mitigation issues.
SCOTUS on Mentally Ill and Death Penalty
The Supreme Court of the United States has considered the issue of execution for those convicted of capital crimes but who are mentally ill either at the time the crime was committed or at the time of the scheduled execution.
SCOTUS ruled it is unconstitutional to execute someone who suffers from a mental illness and cannot understand that they are facing death or the reasons why the government seeks to execute them.
SCOTUS held the government cannot execute someone with severe mental disability.
For legal analysis, see Schaaf, Rosalind. "The Death Penalty and Wrongful Convictions of the Mentally Disabled in America." Legal Studies Master’s Degree: Criminal Law.(2017).
Resources for Study of Mental Illness and Capital Punishment
However, for those wanting to educate themselves with an overview of how mental illness does and does not impact the ability of the prosecutor to seek the death penalty as well as the power of the state to execute those who are clearly mentally ill, we offer the following for study:
Collection of resources discussing various aspects of this issue, including case examples of the mentally ill who faced execution in this country.
Discussion of how mentally ill are executed in the United States with a link to Amnesty International’s full report.
Position given on why capital punishment is not appropriate for those suffering from mental illness.
Policy paper on why the death penalty is not appropriate for those who are mentally ill.