On Social Justice Revisiting Penry

On Social Justice: Revisiting
Vivian Berger, National Law

Since the 1989 Penry v. Lynaugh case, the issue of whether
inflicting capital punishment on individuals with mental
retardation is unconstitutional has laid dormant, until now,
reports Vivian Berger in the National Law Journal.
The US Supreme Court will tackle this question in a recent case,
Atkins v. Virginia, and decide if the death penalty is
‘cruel and unusual punishment’ for this particular class of people.
In Penry, the Court voted 5-4 that people who suffer from
mental retardation are not immune from capital punishment. But when
this case was heard, only two states prescribed the death penalty
to this class. Now that number has risen to 18 and includes the
federal government, which may be one of the reasons why the Court
has decided to hear the case. The Justices will confront the
ethical issue of ‘whether a particular practice conforms to
‘evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing
society.” They will also have the task of categorizing what
constitutes a person suffering from mental retardation as opposed
to one who has a mental disability. As of now, there is an
unofficial blanket test that is generally used by insurance
companies that has three requirements a person has to have in order
to be considered mentally retarded. All these issues will be
confronted and decided soon by the Court when it hears the
Atkins case.
–Mariam Pourshoushtari
Go there>>

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.