Capital Punishment of the Mentally Retarded
A mentally retarded man is charged with a crime that he has never committed. Regardless of his mental state, he is sentenced to the death penalty, condemned to die as a "hog." The divisive idea of executing a mentally handicapped person polarizes most individuals into either fervently supporting or opposing the idea, but Ernest J. Gaines takes an eclectic combination of both ideas to form his own opinion.
Those that are proponents of capital punishment of the mentally disabled state that prisoners can easily claim to be retarded. A law stating that those with an IQ below 65 cannot be executed stirs up debate. If a man, realizing he may be executed for a crime he committed, takes an IQ test, he is likely to purposely perform poorly on the test (Sharp).
Furthermore, the scores for an IQ test can change up to ten points from test to test (Sharp).
The lowest score can be taken and used in a court of law even if another score is higher that 65. The idea that the mentally retarded should be punished less is arguable. Because one is incapable of consciously orchestrating a murder makes one less guilty? The forethought is lacking, but the crime was still committed (Reinert). In A Lesson Before Dying, the judge that sentences Jefferson to the death penalty is of this opinion. He sees "no reason that he should not pay for the part he played in this horrible crime."
On the other hand, opponents of the execution of the mentally retarded claim that it is in violation of the Eight Amendment as a "cruel and unusual punishment." Since 1976, there has been 34 mentally retarded offenders executed, three of those committed their crimes as juveniles (Jost). Those against the...