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Atkins v. Virginia
Transcript of Atkins v. Virginia
L Historical Significance:
The 6-3 ruling in the Supreme Court banned the punishment of the death penalty for any person that is mentally disabled. Background:
Daryl Atkins was convicted of abduction, robbery, and murder.
During the trial, a psychologist testified that Atkins was mentally retarded.
Atkins was sentenced to death, but the Virginia Supreme Court ordered a retrial due to “a misleading verdict form.” Background cont.:
At the second trial, the court ruled that Atkins’ mental state was mild and the jury again sentenced Atkins to death.
The Virginia Supreme Court relied on Penry v. Lynaugh to reject Atkins’ contention that he could not be put to death because he was mentally retarded. In the Supreme Court:
Question: Is the execution of mentally retarded persons “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment? Ruling:
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that, yes, the execution of mentally disadvantaged criminals is unconstitutional and violates the Eighth Amendment. This type of execution is seen as excessive and the constitution places considerable restrictions on the States’ ability to execute a mentally retarded person. Reasoning:
The court reasoned that due to the number of states that have outlawed the execution of mentally retarded criminals, a national consensus against these executions had emerged. The court also raised the concern of the justification of crimes and the trials of criminals with a lessened mental capacity, saying there are different standards to be met.