Policy-making an excuse for their crimes unless they

Policy-making Process – Death Penalty and Intellectual
Disability

            By many the death penalty or capital
punishment is seen a cruel, since it consists of sentencing an individual to death
due to the crimes they committed, which could rage from treason and espionage
to murder and slaughter. Therefore, death sentence for those of intellectual disability
is perceived as unfair since the people are not aware of their actions or don’t
understand the repercussions their actions could attract. Intellectual Disability
was previously known as mental retardation by the American Association on Intellectual
and Development Disabilities (AAIDD) formerly known as the American Association
on Mental Retardation, is described as “significantly sub-average general intellectual
functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested
during development period” (The American Association for Intellectual and Development
Disabilities, 2010). Since the disability begins before the age of eighteen, a
person cannot use intellectual disability as an excuse for their crimes unless
they have been previously diagnosed. A public policy will address the needs of
the citizens, and a policy has been formulated to protect the mentally retarded
from capital punishment. However, a policy is not simply wished upon. On the
contrary, it must undergo a process that consists of five stages. There is the agenda
setting, policy formulation, policy adoption, policy implementation, and policy
evaluation. In the following text, the policy-making process of the death
penalty and intellectual disability will be explained.

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            To begin with, the agenda setting is
where the problem is expresses. In this case, it would be to protect those who
are not able to properly contemplate their actions and ideas. The intellectually
disabled run the risk of being wrongfully convicted since they are unable to comprehend
what is taking place, and since they are unable to communicate with the authorities
and their lawyers they are in danger of being sentenced to death.

            After a problem has been identified,
a policy is formulated to address the problem. The policy was not formulated by
the legislative or executive branch. Instead, a case or several, needed to be
taken to Supreme Court for them to find the sentencing of mentally retarded people
unconstitutional. An example of the problem would be the case of Earl
Washington. The case of Washington is the perfect example of how if an
intellectually disabled is not protected they can be easily convicted. He was condemned
in 1983 for a crime he did not commit, and with his disability the authorities were
able to make him confess to the crime. He spent ten years on death row and a
couple more years in prison when his innocence was proven with the help of DNA evidence.
As can be seen, an individual with intellectual disability needs to be
protected since they are unable to protect themselves and to prevent their
wrongful execution.

            Hence, the policy was adopted with
the aid of several Supreme Court cases. Among the cases would be Atkins v. Virginia, Hall v. Florida, and Moore v.
Texas. With the case Atkins v. Virginia,
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of individual with mental
retardation was unconstitutional. This governing was issued on June 20, 20002.
The decision was supported by the Eight Amendment that goes against cruel or
unusual punishment. This ruling contradicts an order made in 1989, in the case Penry v. Lynaugh where the Supreme Court
considering the execution of the mentally retarded as constitutional.

            On another note, in 2014, Florida
had an accurate limit for the IQ to consider a person intellectually disabled,
and if a person was one point over seventy they could be executed since they
were not, according to Florida law, intellectually disabled. Florida was able
to do this since in 2002, the Supreme court ruled the execution of mentally retarded
unconstitutional, but they gave the states the right to set who would meet the
requirements to be considered intellectually disabled. Henceforth, the case Hall v. Florida took place and in the Court
said that Florida’s law did not take conventional medical practice into
consideration and that many other states did not have such a strict law
considering the IQ. In addition, the Court gave an individual goes IQ didn’t
meet the standard for mental disability the right to present further evidence
to prove their claim.

            Additionally, and most recently,
there is the case of Moore v. Texas. The
ruling took place on March 28, 2017 and Texas was taken to court since their
ability to determine if a person was intellectually disabled was not based on
medical evidence, but instead on stereotypes, other people’s testimony and a fictional
character. For instance, those who knew the person on trial like teachers,
friends, family, or other acquaintances would be questioned if they considered the
person intellectually disabled. Furthermore, the prosecuted was asked if he
could make plans, lie for himself, and respond to questions. Since this process
was not medical or reliable, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas’ manner of
evaluation was “unacceptable” since it placed possible intellectually disabled individual
at risk of being executed. The Court also used the Eighth Amendment as a defense
for the decision of the case.

            As can be seen with the cases, the policy
was adopted and further prepared as other factors were taken into consideration.
Many other cases will probably come in the future that will deal with other issues
that we may not see at the moment, and hopefully they too are supported by the
policy.

            After the policy has been adopted it
need to be implemented. Many laws or policies can be adopted, but if they are
not implemented they basically don’t exist. Some needs to make sure that the
rulings are being executed. With the execution of intellectually disabled being
unconstitutional more and more states are outlawing the practice, while others
are making modification to their prosecution practices to protect these people.
From 1989 to 2002, sixteen states out of the thirty-eight that exercise the
death penalty have banned it.

            It would appear that the policy has
been successful, and it has not brought many complications. Previously mentioned,
mental retardation is determined before the age of eighteen, so prisoners are
not being set free on false claims. From 2002 to 2013, there were 371 inmates
on death row and about seven percent have claimed intellectual disability, and
out of that percentage, half were proven “successfully” to be intellectually
disabled. It may not be an enormous number. But those numbers belong to people
who were on death row and now thanks to the policy have been saved from capital
punishment.

            As can be seen, a problem was
presented to the public and actions were taken to protect those at risk, that cannot
protect themselves from the law if their condition is not deliberated. Nevertheless,
with the aid of the court and those who fought to take their case to the
Supreme Court have saved many from being wrongfully accused for a crime they
did not commit, and with that help of those who follow and practice the law the
policy can be implemented and carried out. The entire system or process can be used
to solve a problem and determine if the solution was the correct one or if
another is needed. 

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