Title

Intellectual Disability and Mental Illness Among Women Sentenced to Death in the US: Constitutional and Evidentiary Dilemmas

Published In

Punishment & Society-International Journal of Penology

Document Type

Citation

Publication Date

3-24-2021

Abstract

This study examined the cases of women on death in which evidence of the defendant’s intellectual disability or mental illness was presented at trial. Of the total population of 52 women on death row at the beginning of 2020 and seven recently-executed women, over 50% qualified for the study. According to expert testimony, most of the women in the sample had a below-average IQ score and/or a neurological deficit, and all but three suffered from a serious mental illness. Almost all had abusive and dysfunctional backgrounds. Recent Supreme Court rulings have banned the execution of defendants with intellectual disability and opened the door to a consideration of execution exemption for defendants with severe mental illness or brain abnormalities. However, considerable judicial equivocation over the meaning and measurement of mental impairments remains. Even as a mitigating factor, the mental health problems of the defendants in this study were given little weight.

Rights

Copyright © 2021 by SAGE Publications

DOI

10.1177/1462474521998437

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/35324

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