People with intellectual disabilities on Death Row: a historical perspective

An important new piece of work by Michael Clemente has been published on the links between our interpretation or misinterpretation of history and present-day practice: see When the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution was ratified, common law protections categorically prohibited the execution of “idiots.” However on two occasions the Supreme Court has concluded that idiocy protections shield only the “profoundly or severely mentally retarded.” Clemente shows that the Court’s historical analysis of idiocy protections has been unduly narrow. He reassesses the historical common law insanity protections for idiots and finds that they covered people with a relatively wide range of intellectual disabilities. Based on this new historical account, he argues that there are people with intellectual disabilities on death row today who would probably in 1791 have been protected from execution.

23. July 2015 by admin
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