“At his best, man is the noblest of animals. Separated from law and justice, he is the worst.” — Aristotle (OMM#9)

Please discuss the evidence you feel best supports your opinion about the appropriateness of the death penalty for developmentally delayed criminals.  In addition, consider what evidence and arguments the other side may present and prepare, propose, and practice a counter argument.

As always, please follow the rules of standard written English, and don’t forget to respond to at least one other classmate’s response in this thread.

Please also, don’t forget to respond to the survey, 2018 Which side would you prefer to argue?, which was emailed to your school email address.

OMM blog #9

29 thoughts on ““At his best, man is the noblest of animals. Separated from law and justice, he is the worst.” — Aristotle (OMM#9)

  1. In Atkins v. Virginia and in other various matters, a debate has surfaced on the appropriateness of the capital penalty for those who are mentally retarded. In my opinion, criminals with mental disabilities should not be allowed to be sentenced to death. First, let us return to the foundation of our justice system. Why do we punish criminals? The main reason is deterrence. In other words, we punish criminals as a method of deterring more potential criminals from doing the same. If there is a death sentence for murder, that would discourage you if you wanted to murder someone. However, in the case of the mentally disabled, that theory has no place. Because people like Lennie don’t intend to kill others, it would be pointless to try and deter other criminals. From the Atkins v. Virginia case, “Capital punishment can serve as a deterrent only when the murder is the result of premeditation and deliberation.” Punishments also serve as retribution. When a criminal does something bad, we expect to see vengeance and payback. Nevertheless, the mentally retarded can’t understand their actions. They don’t realize that they are doing something bad. Therefore, a punishment as harsh as a death sentence is inappropriate for such a case. Finally, the Atkins opinion was founded on the following 8th Amendment interpretation: “The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” According to the Supreme Court, we must act in light of evolving standards of decency. Despite the fact that a person murdered another, we would not be in any way furthering our society. To change our society for the better, we must start by being more merciful, understanding, and good.

  2. I am really not a big believer in capital punishment. I think it is cruel choosing who lives and dies. There are so many bad people in this world, and we only kill some of them, which makes zero sense and is frankly a matter of opinion the severity of a case. It costs more to kill a criminal than to keep them locked up, and I believe life in prison is worse than death. However, I understand there are people in this world who are just not fit to be in society, and often cause many problems in jails, so I understand the reason for capital punishment. I absolutely don’t agree with capital punishment towards mentally retarded criminals. This is because they don’t understand logic as well as we do, they act on impulse, and they just don’t understand the world around them at times. Of course every mind is different, and the exact severity of the mental disability is hard to judge on some people. No matter what, if they fall under the guidelines of mental retardation, they shouldn’t be subject to capital punishment. The real question is, if the person didn’t have a mental disability, would they have committed the crime. In many cases, probably not, which is the exact reason they don’t deserve to be killed for something they can’t control. People can also argue that these people will never learn their lesson. Sure, they probably won’t, but most criminals don’t. According to the National Institute of Justice, about 68 percent of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of their release from prison, and 77 percent were arrested within five years. So based on those statistics, bad people make bad decisions and it therapy because they are most likely in desperate need of help. We should help our fellow people instead of killing them for something they can’t control. They may not be fit to live in society, but they deserve the life that they are living. This may be far fetched, but it can develop a further understanding for my argument. For example, say that you were born with chainsaw arms. Everytime you try to pick something up, you cut it. You cut peoples books, desks, electronics, etc. You know it is wrong, but you can’t control your chainsaw arms. The chainsaw arms represent the mental disability that 4% to 10% of the prison population, with an even greater number of those in juvenile facilities suffer from. Sure they know right from wrong, but these people act on impulse and often can’t control their actions. They should therefore not be subject to capital punishment.

    • Great blog! Although I chose the opposite side of the argument as you, the points you made were very good. I love how you included evidence and statistics in your blog. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  3. When discussing the question, if a mentally disabled person was to commit a serious crime does he deserve the death penalty, I think he doesn’t. One of my main reasons as to why a mentally “retarded” person shouldn’t get the death penalty is because by the law, there a certain circumstances with the death penalty. These are that the person understands that what they did was wrong and that they are going to be killed. By being mentally “retarded”, you don’t understand both of these things which goes against the two circumstances. Also, that person is not in control of what they are doing so killing them won’t do anything. Killing them isn’t going to teach them a lesson. I understand if a normal person was to get the death penalty because they will actually understand why they are dying. However, those who are mentally “retarded” will die not knowing what they did wrong. Wouldn’t you want to know why you are being killed? Even before the punishment is being made, I don’t think the mentally “retarded” person should be punished because he/she isn’t capable to defend themselves in court. I think this doesn’t give them a fair chance in court to explain the situation. Afterall, there are many cases that can be misunderstood. Capital punishment is a serious thing and it shouldn’t just be given to everyone. I also think that it is a terrible idea to base off a person’s life by seeing how in Of Mice and Men, the mentally “retarded” person, Lennie is put to death due to his crime. It is a fictional book, why should we trust it to decide a person’s fate? The last thing I would probably argue is that the death penalty for mentally “retarded” people goes against the Eighth amendment. One of the most popular reasons that I’ve heard many people say is that by not punishing the mentally “retarded” people, other are going to be influenced, but if you are really that mentally “retarded”, you won’t think of that and you wouldn’t think about that. As for the rest of my arguments, I am ready to discuss them in class tomorrow.

  4. I am for the death penalty. A bad deed is a bad deed, and should be punished. Although the mentally disabled do not understand things in the level that we, people without mental problems, do, they should still be punished for what they do. If someone commits a vicious and violent crime, they should not be let off the hook simply because they have a mental illness. Most mentally ill people still know right from wrong, and if they know what they are doing is wrong, then why should they not be punished in the way that everyone else without mental illnesses are punished? Additionally, if we leave the mentally disabled criminals alone, they prove to be a danger not only to others but also to themselves. There is always a chance that if put in prison, the criminal could escape, which could prove dangerous to the people outside the prison. The criminal could also be harmful to themselves. According to studies, the mentally ill are more likely to harm themselves than to harm others. By not allowing these people to live, we are saving them from themselves.
    Some might say that the mentally disabled can be helped by putting them into rehab. centers or places that can help them try to understand their mistakes better, but we should take into consideration that most prisons don’t have the space and money for these treatment centers. The death penalty is not only saving others, but the mentally ill being accused. Also, a criminal is a criminal, no matter how unstable.

    • I admit that the mentally disabled can tell right from wrong, but that is only afterwards. For example, in Of Mice and Men, right before Lennie kills Curley’s wife, he doesn’t realize he might kill her and doesn’t intend to. You also say that by not allowing these people to live, we are saving them from themselves. That sounds a bit counter intuitive. If I was in that place, I would rather live and take the risk of potentially injuring myself over death. Even though I disagree, you still made good points. Great job Arina.

  5. There are many interesting points to be sad on either side of this argument, though ultimately, I feel the capital punishment is appropriate for the mentally ill. The main reason for my thinking so is that life in prison simply will not solve anything. A mentally ill person will not be able to control their impulses, and do not understand consequences. If a mentally ill person is given life in prison instead of execution, they will not understand, much less appreciate the fact they are still alive. Putting a mentally retarded individual in a prison with hundreds of other prisoners, they have a high chance of killing more and more people, but since he is exempt from the death penalty, there will be no end to these massacres. Mentally retarded individuals cannot learn from experience. That is an accepted fact that both arguments use. On the anti-penalty side, it is argued the death penalty will not teach or ward off any other such individuals from committing these crimes. On the pro-penalty side, though, putting the prisoner himself: the individual who cannot learn from experience and has proven a will to kill, will continue to do damage while still not learning.

    • Great response Emils. I am anti-death penalty, but I understand the points about how life in prison won’t solve anything, and that is a very valid point.

  6. I really don’t like the death penalty. I don’t like that one of our forms of punishment is to take the life of the offender. I do believe, however, that the death sentence is necessary. To begin, the death sentence is about justice. The general rule is that if one purposefully and willingly kills another person, they should be held accountable for their actions. Leading me into my next point, that I think that as long as we uphold the death sentence for people without mental disabilities, it should also be upheld with those having some moderate to minor mental disability. Persons having mental disabilities similar to the ones of Atkins and Wilson can still tell right from wrong; They still know that these crimes are fundamentally wrong, and are choosing to do it. As well as this, they are still able to understand that what they are doing is cause for capital punishment, such as the death sentence. Justice, however, is not the only point of the death penalty. Another purpose of the death penalty is to prevent these criminals with violent histories from continuing these crimes. If criminals requiring the death sentence are sent to prison, then they may continue these violent tendencies. One may argue that mentally disabled people won’t be deterred or learn from this, but if they won’t be deterred by the death sentence, and then the same concept would apply to a lesser punishment, such as life in prison.

  7. One of the famous quotes of Aristotle was “At his best, man is the noblest of animals. Separated from law and justice, he is the worst.” This fits in perfectly with the idea of the case we are discussing in class, that being the execution of mentally retarded people. I am pro-death penalty, with specific reasons. I want to make clear that what is being discussed in regards to the mentally ill being killed is in extreme cases, and should not be used for every single crime. This quote fits in perfectly because of what it is about. Aristotle discusses human nature, and specifically the idea of justice. Because without justice he says, humans are at their worst. If that is the case, then why not treat mentally retarded people with equal justice under the capital punishment law? They committed a crime, and they should be punished for it. An argument that could possibly be used to fend off this idea would be to say that jail, or therapy would work in helping these people learn from their mistakes, and that death would not deter others from trying it. However, this is not the case. Putting people in mental institutions or jails is not always the best option because it doesn’t treat the person. These handicapped people will not learn from their mistakes, and thus if are let out in the public again, they can do further harm to more innocent people. And to the other point, if execution does not deter others from committing crimes, then what will? Certainly not jail time. Overall, I look forward to the debates going on in class, and I hope to see new aspects to the idea from each opposing side.

  8. I believe that the mentally disabled should undergo capital punishment if the crime they commit is bad enough for it. Whatever they did was bad and they should be punished. Just like how some people with mental disabilities can do some normal things, they should have to pay for their crimes. In the Atkins case he shot the man 8 times after the man begged for his life. This shows a clear mental disability, but he killed someone. He shouldn’t be allowed to just go to a mental correctional facility when he will never learn. He will never feel bad for what he did. He may feel sad that he is in trouble, but he will never feel bad for the family of the man he killed. Also, if all mentally disabled are allowed to escape capital punishment, people may use it as an advantage and say that they have a mental disability. It also isn’t fair to the victim or their family that the person who did that horrible thing gets to go to a mental hospital instead of actually being punished.

  9. All the cases we have done all are about whether or not a person should get the death penalty if they are mentally retarded. To be honest, I don’t even think that this disability should have any impact on the court decision. If a person were to commit such horrid crimes, they must have at least had an idea that what they were doing was wrong. For example, the Atkins case really boils down to the question whether or not Atkins was mentally retarded. Atkins shot Nesbitt eight times and knew he could get money from an ATM. Some might say his partner is to blame for this instead. I think they should have both got the death penalty and they both should have deserved what they did to Nesbitt. The death penalty is legal in thirty-nine states. Most people do not believe the death penalty is a bad thing. Why should it matter if a person is mentally retarded? Newton’s third law states that ” For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Atkins killed Nesbitt. Killing Atkins would be an equal and opposite reaction. Also, Aristotle famously says, “At his best, man is the noblest of animals. Separated from law and justice, he is the worst.” If Atkins is not subject to law and can get away with such a crime, he is the worst human being. I am pro-death penalty, but maybe my views will change in the class debates.

    • I enjoyed reading your blog, but I have a different opinion. I like how you stated your honest opinion. From reading your blog, I noticed your argument is based on the assumption that Atkins isn’t actually mentally retarded because he could create a plan. Being mentally disabled doesn’t mean you can’t think, but means you have “subaverage intellectual ability equivalent to or less than an IQ of 70 that is accompanied by significant deficits in abilities (as in communication or self-care) necessary for independent daily functioning.” (Merriam Webster) Atkins clearly shows symptoms of “mild mental retardation,” and that should definitely be taken into account when deciding the appropriate punishment for him. Anyways, your blog was nice, and I especially liked how you used quotes from famous people.

  10. Although there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the death penalty should be administered towards the mentally ill, I strongly believe that the death penalty is unconstitutional, due to its “cruel and unusual” aspects. Mentally challenged people shouldn’t be executed for committing crimes that they can’t control and don’t understand that they did. Instead, they should receive a life sentence in jail with adequate mental health help, if needed. In my opinion, a lifetime in death is worse than just immediately dying and more efficient in teaching a person of their wrongdoings. According to many sources, financial costs to taxpayers of capital punishment is several times that of keeping someone in prison for life. It is barbaric and violates the “cruel and unusual” clause in the Bill of Rights. We as a society have to move away from the “eye for an eye” revenge mentality if civilization is to advance. Alos, capital punishment sends the wrong message of “seeking revenge” and wanting to kill someone.
    Some jury members are reluctant to convict if it means putting someone to death, meaning that some criminals would be left off the hook due to the kind hearts of the judges. Last but not least, the possibility exists that innocent men and women may be put to death. This would be tragic and can definitely occur in this day and age. Furthermore, capital punishment is cruel, unusual, and an ineffective way of punishing criminals of horrific crimes.

  11. I believe that capital punishment is not right for the mentally retarded. Capital punishment was designed for people who intend to kill, therefore, it would be cruel to kill someone for actions they could not have controlled. The mentally retarded people do not have control over their actions and if they did, they just find the best way possible to get what they want. For example, a mentally retarded person wants money, they shoot a guy to do so. They lack common sense. Also, imagine you had a family member with a mental disability, and they get killed for murder. That is down right cruel. You would think it was completely unfair, and that is correct. It is wrong to punish someone who lacks common sense and don’t know any better. This is the main reason why I believe that capital punishment is wrong for the mentally retarded. My group came up with lots of points, but that will be save for the debate! 🙂

  12. I try to see both sides of all cases. Based on conversations with Remy and other Pro-Death people, I have determined the main reasons people support the death penalty. First, some believe it is cheaper to murder mentally disabled people than to give them treatment. Actually, based on data I found online, “Cases without the death penalty cost $740,000, while cases where the death penalty is sought cost $1.26 million. Maintaining each death row prisoner costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than a prisoner in general population.” (https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty) So it is actually cheaper not to seek out the death penalty. Secondly, some of the people I conversed with think no one is exempt from the law, so mentally handicapped people should be punished to make them repent their actions. Unfortunately, mentally disabled persons don’t understand their penalty enough for them to regret their mistakes. Finally, some of those people suppose the death penalty is merciful compared to the alternative which is life in jail. Now, is the death penalty actually merciful? This is a question of opinion, but I would like to point out when you kill someone, you don’t just hurt them, all of their friends and family (who are innocent) suffer terribly. Of course, a person’s friends and family would still suffer if that person was assigned life in jail; but, they would be hurt much less. At this point, the death penalty is just expensive, pointless, and punishes innocent people. There are valid reasons for both sides of this argument, but I believe the death penalty is a punishment that shouldn’t be inflicted; especially on the mentally ill.

  13. I believe that the death penalty is cruel and unusual. It seems unnecessary. While it is supposed to keep the crime rate down, it seems to not do its job. I feel like it would just cause a bit of outrage, like the outrage shown by the people for this case the class is debating. In fact, according to a source, “In some years, the murder rate in non-death penalty states was as much as 46 percent lower than in death penalty states.” That says a lot. It does not really teach anyone a lesson, especially since most cases aren’t even seen by a majority of the public. The only person it would really impact is the defendant themselves, but how would they learn if they’re dead? While prison is a bit better than death, some people, such as the mentally retarded, would face more difficulty in prison. While the mentally retarded are incapable of fully controlling their actions, they still have the capability to learn. While serving their sentence, they can be brought to psychiatric centers to learn, instead of being killed. I believe that most people don’t want to go back to the eye for an eye world again.

    • You provided really good points in your blog, Abigail. However, I am still sticking with pro death. It is a fact that when a criminal is given the capital punishment the crime in that area decreases, so obviously someone is getting something out of the punishment. We can’t teach someone that murdering is wrong after they’ve just murdered someone, it is redundant. And think about the victim’s family. They want justice, and capital punishment could be that justice. It is also important to remember that capital punishment isn’t the punishment for everything, only for very serious crimes. I can’t wait to argue my side in a few days.

  14. My group and I came up with many ideas for how we will argue pro death penalty. People who are mentally retarded are human, therefore they deserve the same punishment the other humans would get for their crimes. Different people are affected differently by their own mental retardation, so many people with mental retardation can have control when they commit a crime, but they don’t understand the consequence that follows. But a crime is a crime, and it is never justified no matter your IQ level. Letting people with mental retardation live in prison can make them pose as a threat to society. It would also be a very traumatic toll on the mentally retarded prisoners to be forced to live in prison, it would be much easier and cheaper to simply give them the capital punishment. Also, once a crime is committed, no time is wasted teaching someone why it was wrong, because the damage had already been done. That person is still a danger to society.

    • Great job Ashley! I am on the same side that you are and I think you summed up our points nicely. Great job!

  15. The side that I have chosen to defend is the side that believes that mentally disabled criminals should undergo capital punishment if necessary. The main reason that I stand where I do is that they are still criminals that pose a threat towards themselves and society even though they may be mentally retarded. The reason for a death penalty is to prevent the criminal from hurting anyone else. If a criminal is mentally retarded they are less likely to learn from their mistakes, meaning they are more likely to do it again. Just look at Atkins’ criminal record. It is proof that a mentally retarded person is likely to keep committing crimes if they aren’t stopped since they don’t learn from their mistakes. On the topic of not learning from mistakes, sending a mentally disabled person to jail won’t do anything. Once they get out of jail they are just as likely to commit a crime as they were before.

  16. I personally am on the side that supports the death penalty for mentally disabled criminals. I believe this for a multitude of reasons. My main reasoning behind this is that your IQ does not reflect on your morality. Every single person is taught that killing others is wrong, it doesn’t matter who you are or how you were raised that is something basic taught to us as children. To say someone doesn’t know brutally murdering someone is a terrible act is quite far fetched. Also, allowing mentally disabled people to receive the death penalty is much more humane than having them serve a life sentence if they truly don’t know what they did wrong. Besides, in prison they are at a great risk of being harmed or harming other inmates. Since mentally disabled people don’t learn from their mistakes, it’s likely they would continue their behavior in prison. Like Jeffrey Dahmer, a very notorious criminal who received a life sentence was murdered in prison my a fellow inmate. The inmate said his reason for killing Dahmer was because he knew that Jeffrey Dahmer was not repentant for his crimes. In Justice Stevens peice about the majority opinion he claims that mentally disabled people don’t typically feel remorse for their actions which puts them at great risk in prison.
    Also, jail is not rehabilitation. Criminals who possibly could’ve received the death penalty are not going to be given treatment in jail. Putting them in prison for the rest of their lives isn’t going to help them in any way shape or form. They’ve never going to learn so isn’t in their best interest to give them a quick and painless death to prevent them from taking more innocent lives?

  17. Anybody who commits a crime bad enough to be punished by death should be punished by death. Mentally disabled or not, if somebody does something horrible they should be executed. The families and friends of the victim/victims of the crime are also victims. Though they were not actually robbed or raped or murdered, their mental state will be heavily affected in a negative way. If we do not kill the person who commited the crime, we will not be giving those people justice. Imagine if your mother, sister or friend was murdered by a mentally disabled person. You would probably want that mental person dead. Another thing is that it is more cruel to put these people through “treatment” than to just end their pain. These people have been in pain for their whole lives because of their condition. Any sort of treatment for these people will not fix anything, but rather hurt them. They just do not understand that the people caring for them are trying to help them, not hurt them. It is also very expensive, time consuming and energy consuming to care for these people. Why should we spend so much effort to try to make these people’s live better, if it would actually just do absolutely nothing.

  18. First and foremost, I believe it is a cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a mentally disabled person with the death penalty. I’m not going to go into great detail about our points so as to keep some things under wraps, but I will say that we have several reasons and evidence against the pro-death penalty side. Other people have said things about it being impossible for mentally disabled people to learn from their mistakes, making it obsolete to put them in jail. While their learning process is far more different and often more difficult than ours, it does not make it impossible. Even if they don’t learn the same morals as we do, providing psychiatric care for the mentally disabled who commit crimes is a much better option. It is cruel to decide who gets a chance at starting over or perhaps bettering themselves in the future, so providing this care gives them the opportunity to do just that, all under professional supervision. As for providing justice to the family of the victim, if they have any sort of open mind or clear morals themselves, then they will be able to see that the mentally disabled person was acting on different terms than someone without a mental disability. It’s not their fault that they can’t control their actions sometimes, so they need to be treated in a different way, with different punishments.

  19. I believe that Capital punishment is a necessary penalty for people who commit awful crimes. When it comes to the mentally disabled, I agree there should be some limits off punishment but they still should be subject to this penalty as well. Firstly if we show that we excuse the mentally ill for crimes such as theft and murder. Who’s to tell that people won’t take advantage of this basic loophole in the law. People may use these limitations of punishments to claim themselves as mentally disabled or use the disabled to carry out their crimes. Also if mentally disabled people do not really understand the concept of inflicting pain towards others is really that safe to have them in society. Also keeping a criminal with a mental disability in prison would be more cruel and unusual to him since he does not have the capacity to understand his mistakes. It would be more merciful to inflict the death penalty on these criminals if there crime is worthy of this penalty.

  20. The use of the death penalty by itself has always been a debate. Finding which situations are acceptable to apply the highest form of punishment possible is by far one of the hardest decisions to make. Moreover, there is controversy over the use of the death penalty on mentally ill people. While many believe that applying the death penalty is cruel, it is clear that using the the penalty is necessary.

    For starters, mentally ill people who have a past history of crimes present a threat to society. If the law continues to think less of them, then eventually they will be allowed to get away with a crime for nearly no sentence. Majority of time, they will have a fraction of the jail or prison time that they would’ve had if they were “normal”. This leads to repeated offenses, and what if someone mentally ill attacks and kills someone you know? While others may claim that they are people too, that simply defeats their argument altogether. Claiming that a mentally ill person deserves to be treated fairly or equally means that they should be held to the same standards of society. Emotionally, their argument may sound good, but logically it is terrible.

    I don’t want to use all my claims and rebuttals here for argument purposes,, but there are plenty more reasons. I can’t wait to see what my classmates have to say on the other side of this issue. Who knows what could happen? Maybe they’ll even persuade me to change my view on the subject.

  21. In this blog, I would like to argue against the death penalty for mentally disabled criminals. first, Criminals with an IQ lower than 70 are slightly mentally retarded, therefore have a lack of communicative and adaptive abilities. That leads to them presenting tampered or untruthful evidence for the case, therefore leading to wrongful convictions. For example, in the Atkins Trial, the judges used an improper sentencing verdict form. furthermore, these criminals do not understand the message of the law under the death penalty, because of their adaptive inability. In a community of people with an average IQ, the people would be able to think ahead about the actions that would be done. But with a mentally retarded person, they would only act on impulse, and not think ahead. In addition, these criminals would have a painless death and not learn their lesson.

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