- What theory or theories of crime best justifies or justify the imposition of capital punishment
There are several legal theories that justify capital punishment in many jurisdictions. In such a punishment, the state puts one to death as a punishment for the crimes they may have committed. Legally, only capital offenses can attract capital punishments. The death sentence has always elucidated various reactions from the public, with some opposing it, and others support it. For instance, as of 2014, only 58 nations in the world actively practiced this punishment. 98 countries have so far abolished the punishment because it conflicts with constitutional provisions for human rights. Essentially, the death penalty is a direct conflict to the right to life. On the moral perspective, no offense is so serious to warrant this punishment. However, there are several theories that justify the imposition of capital punishment (Bedau, 15).
Retribution is one such key theory. Most supporters of this penalty argue that there is a moral justification for the death penalty whenever it is applied in offenses that are related to murder (Bedau, 45). As they argue, elements such as mass killing, homicide, torture murder, terrorism, child murderers and genocide should warrant the death penalty. They further argue that it would seem patently unjust not to apply the death penalty in such cases. The essence of this punishment, as the supporters argue, is to ensure that the punishment one receives is proportional to the crime they committed. According to Immanuel Kant, a philosopher in the 18th century, whoever commits murder must also die. This is the only way justice can be attained.
Supporters of this theory have also argued that by setting out the capital punishment, potential offenders to serious crimes will be scared. A less serious punishment is unlikely to deter offenders from participating in crime. With the capital punishment a possibility, offenders will be scared, hence be prevented from committing a crime.
- Furthermore, discuss ONE issue frame in American political culture that is used to rationalize the use of capital punishment for those with intellectual disabilities. In addition , be sure to bring in aspects of how crime myths are formed
The use of capital punishment for those with intellectual disabilities has raised a major debate over the rationalization of the capital punishment. Mental retardation is mostly characterized by an individual having significant limitations both in the adaptive behavior and intellectual functioning that may cover their day to day practical and social skills. In the American political culture, this disability has its origins dating back to the pre-18th century. In simple terms, it is unconstitutional to execute individuals with intellectual disability (mental retardation). In understanding this, it is however important to note that mental retardation is not the same as mental illness. This has been applied in a number of court cases. The landmark ruling as pertains to this issue was given by the Supreme Court on June, 2002. This was in the case of Atkins v. Virginia. In this case, the court held that executing death row inmates who suffered mental retardation was a violation to the Eighth Amendment that banned all forms of cruel and unusual punishment (Bedau, 32).
The Supreme Court also addressed the issue of mental retardation/intellectual disability in the case of Hall v. Florida. The Supreme Court ruled that the IQ cutoff that was employed by the Florida court to determine intellectual disability was unconstitutional. As the court put it, ‘Florida’s law contravenes our Nation’s commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world’ (Bedau, 29). With this respect, the court banned the practice of executing mentally retarded people in 2002. In so doing, the court gave the states a leeway to select necessary processes to determine people who would be exempted.
Crime myths are formed on a day to day basis. In order of priority, crime is America’s 33rd most important issue that should be addressed. As much as most people fear criminal victimization, it is a fact that much of the information that is in the public is not true. Crime myths are always formed depending on the trends and patterns that occur (Bedau, 43). For instance, it is a myth that suburbs are safer than cities. It is important to reduce the myths since they give information that may be false.
- Using the same issue frame from your response to Question 2, justify the prohibition of capital punishment for those with intellectual disabilities
Capital punishment should never be used for persons with intellectual disabilities. The Eighth Amendment of the United States of America prohibits unusual and cruel punishment. The national consensus is to the effect that individuals who are mentally retarded should not be executed (Bedau, 21). This was not only inappropriate, it meant that the mentally challenged are charged for the offense they did not willfully commit. Whichever the case, such punishment should be banned.
The first reason why such punishment should be prohibited is that it does not meet the penological goals of punishment (Bedau, 21). In most cases, the reason for punishment is to achieve deterrence and retribution in the society. Executing a mentally retarded person does not serve such a purpose. Essentially, such individuals lack the ability of appreciating the wrongfulness and consequences of the actions they took. Most individuals who are mentally disabled tend to give confessions that are false. Punishing them based on their arguments would be inhuman. Unlike competent persons, mentally retarded individuals are less likely to assist the lawyers to prepare their defense. Judging them based on the information that they give would be unfair to them.
Capital punishments are always meted out to offenders in capital crimes such as murder and genocide. The capital offenses have as their key element the ill-motive (mens rea) to commit a crime. Accordingly, the two components that must be established are actus reus and mens rea. It is difficult to imagine of the mentally retarded individuals as having the capacity to plan to commit an offence. Most offenses that are committed by mentally retarded individuals are pre-planned. At worst, courts should establish the lack of the ill-motive in the mentally retarded individuals committing crimes (Bedau, 17). This is sufficient to reduce the punishment they should receive to the one they can comfortably handle. Although courts have been reluctant to adopt this approach, the fact of the matter is that it would be cruel to execute mentally retarded individuals. As a matter of fact, such a punishment should be prohibited.
- a) Discuss how the case has affected at least ONE of the components in the process of determining what the policy should be with respect to capital punishment for those with intellectual disabilities
Although the decision in Hall vs. Florida has changed the trajectory of the debate on the application of capital punishments; there are several gaps that are yet to be filled as pertaining to the matter. In determining what the policy should be in regards to capital punishment for people with intellectual disabilities, the case has affected several components. Whereas the Supreme Court prohibited such executions, there is no express rule that executing people who have serious mental illnesses when committing the crime is unconstitutional. What the court has expressly stated is the unconstitutionality of executing a person who is incompetent at the time the execution is made. This is a tricky situation that should be keenly analyzed to ensure that policies are not put in place that undermine the dignity of human beings.
Accordingly, the court cannot execute a defendant who is incompetent at the time the execution is being made. The defense counsels are given adequate time to prove the incompetence of the defendants. It is unclear whether the state can take the costs of medicating a defendant who is ill to ensure they become competent for the purposes of execution. Not even the lower courts have a consensus on how this issue should be addressed. Most critics argue that such a move is incorrect as forceful medication can only be made with the main purpose of executing the perpetrators. Question marks arise as to whether such medication qualifies to be termed as being the ‘appropriate medical care.
In determining whether people with mental disabilities should be subjected to the capital punishment, Hall v Florida has acted as a yardstick to guide the decisions. There is a big debate over the level of IQ that one must have in order to be adjudged to be mentally sound. In most cases, different states have the leeway to select what they think is the ideal IQ. In Florida, for instance, a person with an IQ of less than 70 is usually considered to be mentally retarded. In measuring this, the states are also allowed to use various methods in determining whether one passes the threshold. There is no procedure of determining whether one is mentally retarded or not.
- b) In addition, discuss the roles of at least TWO policy actors in the particular policy process.
Policy actors have a number of roles in ensuring that the regulations that are enacted to guide public actions are effected. Accordingly, America’s Congress agrees that a disability is part of the human experience which does not limit or alter the rights that individuals have. In making institutional decisions, it is, therefore, crucial to take all factors into question to ensure victims get the justice they need.
The judges are great policy actors in matters dealing with justice. Effectively, the decision they make in court is binding and must be respected by all parties to the case. This decision may also be quoted in future as an authority in cases with similar issues. In the case of Hall v Florida, five judges agreed with this decision not to execute the mentally retarded person while four of them were against this decision. This is a very tight call, meaning that the issue in hand still cuts a divisive figure in the society. Through their discretionary powers, judges have an opportunity to create law on matters that the law does not adequately address. Whereas the dissenting opinion is, usually, considered useless, it helps to understand the divergent views of the other judges. Judges as policy actors in this case interpreted the arguments presented to set the guidelines that other state courts should employ in judging mentally retarded individuals.
The defense counsel is a major policy actor in shaping the opinion of the court. The arguments put forward to the judges are essential in ensuring the judges consider the opinion they give. Essentially, the defense counsels seek to give a position that will see their clients released. As such, the counsels seek to establish a claim that persons who are mentally retarded should not be subjected to the capital punishment. The process of making this policy spans over the period the trial goes on. Their main influence is as to how they argue against the unfavorable conditions.
Bedau, Hugo Adam. Killing as punishment: reflections on the death penalty in America. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004. Print.