On February 20, 2002, the United States Supreme Court heard Daryl Atkins v. Virginia (Case No. 00–8542). The question the Court will consider is:
Does the execution of persons with mental retardation violate current American standards of decency?
Given this crucial question, we have updated the earlier list of people with mental retardation who have been executed since 1976 (Keyes, Edwards, & Perske, 1997). At that time, 30 persons were listed. Currently, at least 44 persons with this disability have been escorted to the death chamber.
The updated list is based on the authors' work on behalf of these persons, on formal statements in psychological reports, trial briefs, appellate briefs, and from interactions with the following key sources:
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
Death Penalty Information Center
Human Rights Watch
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Many attorneys who work on these death penalty cases.
The list consists of those who scored 70 or less on standardized intelligence tests. It applies the allowable 5-point standard error of measure in a few cases in which adaptive skill data were significantly lower.
Sources agree that other defendants could have been added, but the issue of their mental retardation was ignored or never discovered. No referrals for evaluation were made. Consequently, no mention of mental limitations was raised during their trials and appeals.
Authors:Denis Keyes, PhD, Associate Professor of Special Education; College of Charleston, Charleston, SC. William Edwards, JD, Deputy Public Defender, Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office. Robert Perske, BD, Advocate Worker and Author, 159 Hollow Tree Ridge Road Darien, CT 06820.Rperske@aol.com