The execution of the mentally ill is a major problem in the United States. It is estimated that 5-10 percent of people currently on death row are considered severely mentally ill (“Position Statement 54”). This is a huge problem for the criminal justice system. Through out this paper I will examine the different areas where the criminal justice system failed to recognize the issues of the accused. I will also focus on the importance of Mitigating and Aggravating factors throughout the court proceedings.
Mental Illness Affecting Capital Punishment
A person’s mental illness affects multiple areas of the legal process in capital trials. Below I will discuss the four main areas:
1. Police Interrogation: Suspects suffering from a mental illness usually have trouble comprehending what is going on during an interrogation. A majority of mentally ill defendants do not understand their Miranda rights and sometimes even wave their right to an attorney (Swig 2014). The amount of interactions between the police and the mentally ill is very high. One study showed that the probability of arrest for a mentally ill person is 67 times higher than that of a person who is not mentally ill (Redlich, 2004, p. 19). The higher rate of interaction places a higher chance of a mentally ill person ending up in an interrogation room. Interrogation tactics in themselves are misleading. Many times officers play sympathetic roles in order to persuade suspects to trust and open up to them. Some mentally ill suspects may engage in certain behaviors that can be misinterpreted by the officers as guilt. These behaviors include anxiety, lack of eye contact, and other indicators of evasiveness (Follette, 2007, pg. 4...
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... was unconstitutional. Ford was convicted of murder in 1974 and sentenced to death. Throughout his time on death row Ford became obsessed with the Ku Klux Klan. He grew delusional and believed that many of his friends and family were being held captive in the prison and were being tortured. Ford wrote to the Attorney General of Florida in 1983 and assumed control of the hostage situation. He stated that he had fired many prison officials and referred to himself as Pope John Paul, III. Fords attorneys requested that a psychiatrist evaluate him. The psychiatrist labeled Ford as a paranoid schizophrenic with suicide potential. During the court trial one of the Justices Lewis Powell spoke out about the case. He stated that, “The Eight amendment forbids the execution only of those who are unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it.”
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