When it comes to the death penalty in the United States of America did you know that if you’re a murderer it pays dividends to be stupid?
That’s right. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that subjecting an intellectually disabled murderer to the death penalty amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. Frying an intellectually abled murderer to death is OK, no problem, but the lives of stupid murderers must be spared.
“No legitimate penological purpose is served by executing the intellectually disabled,” reasoned the majority. Furthermore, such individuals face “a special risk of wrongful execution,” said the Court
This precedent from the high court doesn’t make any logical legal sense to me. That’s what I concluded 2 ½ years ago in my post: Too Smart to Live; Too Dumb to Die. There I observed that if a convicted baby rapist murderer is slightly more intelligent than an imbecile, it’s perfectly OK to put him to death. He’s too smart to live. But if he’s somewhat less intelligent, then putting him to death is cruel and unusual punishment. He’s too dumb to die.
In my humble legal opinion, the somewhat smarter baby rapist murder is denied equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment doesn’t protect smart murders, only the dumb ones. Killing the smarter murder is not cruel and unusual punishment.
Where in the United States Constitution does it say that dumb defendants must be considered differently than smart defendants when it comes to punishment for precisely the same criminal conduct? Nowhere! This is one of the better arguments I can think of for abolition of the death penalty altogether – it’s way too arbitrarily applied. There is no remedy for any wrongful execution. Death is final.
Now the high court is poised to reaffirm the very same illogical rule. A majority of the justices last week appeared ready to side with a man sentenced to death for a 1980 murder who is challenging how Texas gauges whether a defendant has intellectual disabilities that would preclude execution. His lawyers argued that a lower court which upheld his sentence wrongly used an “outdated” 24-year-old definition used in Texas when it determined he was not intellectually disabled.
The issue is focused on how judges should weigh medical evidence of intellectual disability. His lawyers said that a lower court found that Moore’s IQ of 70 was “within the range of mild mental retardation.” So it looks like the United States Supreme Court once again is going to decide a serious question of life or death based on something as arbitrary and amorphous as an IQ score.
When the death penalty is in question, stupid is definitely an advantage.