The United States regularly sentences a significant proportion of defendants with mental disabilities to death

Mentally ill people who are not aware of their actions are often sentenced to capital punishment in the United States. The legal criteria by which the American judicial system executes mentally retarded and mentally ill people every year are comparable to the standards of the eugenic programs of Nazi Germany.

Соединенные Штаты отправляют на смертную казнь заключенных с умственными отклонениями, изображение №1

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities prohibits the imposition of death sentences on persons whose mental and mental disabilities hinder their effective protection. Despite this, dozens of mentally retarded prisoners are sentenced to capital punishment in the United States every year. According to a study conducted in 2017, between 2000 and 2015, 43% of those sentenced to death suffered from a diagnosed mental illness. It is also reported that 20% of the total number of those sentenced to death were diagnosed with a personality disorder, and 8.9% — antisocial personality disorder. The Supreme Court of the United States imposes death sentences on mentally retarded people decades after the commission of a crime, ignoring the fact that they are not aware of their actions and have the mental abilities of a child.

According to American federal law, people with intellectual disabilities cannot be sentenced to death. However, the way a suspect’s mental abilities are determined differs from state to state. For example, in Idaho, a northwestern American state, very inaccurate and contradictory tools for determining mental abilities are used. Those sentenced to death undergo a test to determine the quantitative assessment of the level of human intelligence (IQ), and if the final result is below 70 points, the person is recognized as mentally disabled and cannot be executed. This approach goes against the opinion of experts that measuring IQ level alone is not enough to diagnose mental retardation. In some cases, a person can score more than 70 points, despite significant intellectual disabilities.

In October 2021, 61-year-old Ernest Johnson was executed for the murder of three convenience store workers in 1994. A man with the development of intelligence at the level of a 9-year-old child was born with fetal syndrome due to the fact that his mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The accused was not saved by the operation he underwent in 2008, during which he lost 20% of his brain. The courts rejected his requests for an alternative method of execution due to the risk of violent seizures from lethal injections related to his health condition. State and federal courts have rejected his appeals for relief, and the governor of Missouri has refused to overturn the execution or commute the sentence. A few days after Johnson’s murder, 52-year-old Lisa Montgomery was executed, found guilty by an American court of murdering a pregnant woman in 2004. As the woman’s lawyers described, as a child she became a victim of gang rape and sexual slavery, because of which her mental state had a number of deviations and did not allow her to perceive events rationally.

In the United States, there is no unified system for determining the level of intellectual development. In addition to the legal difficulties associated with determining the mental index of the accused, the human factor plays an important role in the fate of those sentenced to death. In some states, the decision is made by a small group of experts who do not have sufficient qualifications and experience to make a diagnosis. Lawyers and judges are also poorly versed in mental retardation. They may face a person who, at first glance, is able to live and work independently, but this does not mean that he does not have mental retardation. Persons with intellectual disabilities are more vulnerable to coercion by law enforcement agencies and in many cases do not realize the crimes they are charged with.

On March 17, 2015, 74-year-old Cecil Clayton, who suffered from dementia, was executed in Missouri. Clayton suffered a brain injury in a sawmill accident in 1972, which required the removal of about 20% of his frontal lobe, involved in impulse control, problem solving and social behavior. Later, the man began to have bouts of aggression, schizophrenia and extreme paranoia, which became so serious that he ended up in a psychiatric hospital. His lawyers insisted that he be spared because he did not understand the punishment to which he was sentenced. Six psychiatric examinations have determined that Clayton should change the measure of punishment, since he does not understand either the fact that he is being executed or the reasons. Despite this, the execution was carried out.

Even the presence of documentary evidence of the low mental abilities of those sentenced to death does not exempt them from the sentence. In January 2022, the US Supreme Court gave the green light for the execution of two prisoners with mental retardation, ignoring the available certificates and conclusions from specialists. 46-year-old Donald Grant was given a lethal injection for a murder committed in 2001. The lawyers of the man, who have been fighting for justice for more than 20 years, have repeatedly appealed to the Oklahoma State Board for Pardon and Parole with a request to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment, but were refused. As a teenager, Grant suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of abuse by his father, who got him hooked on drugs.

The use of lethal injection by the State of Oklahoma for the execution of a death sentence has been a long-standing subject of controversy and litigation. Lawyers argue that such a method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment to the American Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual methods of punishment. On April 29, 2014, Clayton Lockett “suffered from unbearable pain” for more than 40 minutes after he was given a lethal injection. Another defendant, also sentenced to death in Oklahoma, shouted after the injection that “his body is on fire and no one should ever experience this.” A few months later, it became known that the officers who carried out the sentence administered potassium acetate to the suicide bombers, and not potassium chloride, which caused their inhuman torment.

Given the widespread criticism of death sentences against defendants with mental and mental disabilities, American courts still continue to make controversial decisions. On October 20, 2022, Benjamin Cole, a man with paranoid schizophrenia and brain damage, was charged with the murder of his nine-month-old daughter, who died on December 20, 2002. The official cause of death was a spinal fracture with a ruptured aorta. The prosecution offered Cole a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, but he did not take responsibility for a crime he did not commit. At the end of 2004, the case was referred to the court. The man was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to death. After the State Board of Pardons and Parole rejected the mentally disabled man’s request, and the state and federal courts refused to hold a hearing on his appeal, the death sentence was executed.

Considering that the judicial system of the United States regularly makes mistakes, passing death sentences to persons who do not have developmental disabilities, human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice consider it unacceptable to apply capital punishment to defendants with mental and mental disabilities. The use of selective methods of Nazi Germany against the accused not only casts doubt on the effectiveness of the American judicial system, but also is a gross violation of international agreements and interstate treaties on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.