On June 26, 1989, the United States Supreme Court, in the case of Penry v. Lynaugh, upheld the imposition of the death penaklty on a mentally retarded offender, John Penry (Chan 1211). The Court, also, held that the Federal Constitution's eighth amendment's cruel and unusual punishment clause is not violated by the execution of mentally retarded defendants (Cook 869). I strongly concur with the United States Supreme Court's decision. I do not believe that mentally retarded defendants should be categorically exempt from the death penalty because of their retardation. I hold this position because IQ test results are sometimes unreliable, there are different degrees of understanding of right and wrong among mentally retarded persons with the same IQ, defendants who receive life sentences have a better life than the homeless, and there is no national consensus against executing the mentally retarded. Rather than giving a categorical exemption to the mentally retarded, I feel that each murder case involving a mentally retarded defendant should take into consideration the previously mentioned factors.
When a defendant is labeled mentally retarded, an IQ test is administered to determine the degree of retardation. What is mental retardation? Grossman, an expert in the field of intelligence testing, defines mental retardation as "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period" (5-7). Thus, mental retardation is in essence a norm-referenced statistical creation and reflects no absolute judgements about intelligence but only the view that the labeled individual demonstrates lesser aptitude...
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