Mentally Ill Prisoners on Death Row: Unsolved Puzzles for Courts and Legislatures
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
In this paper, I aim to develop broadly acceptable solutions to the unique problems presented by mentally ill prisoners on death row, not to stake out symbolic positions categorically exempting people with mental illness from the death penalty, nor to create impediments to its administration. The goal is to correct deficiencies in current law and practice that have allowed legitimate concerns about severely mentally ill prisoners to be overlooked. The challenge of reform is to identify ways of correcting these deficiencies that are also respectful of the popular will in states with capital punishment and of the public officials who bear the responsibility for faithfully executing the law.
With these preliminary observations in mind, I will now turn to the threc grounds upon which execution of mentally ill prisoners should be precluded. In each case, I will present general principles, including the Task Force proposals, before turning to the remaining puzzles.