Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 74)


In this chapter I focus not on the general debate regarding capital punishment, but on applying the death sentence to mentally retarded or mentally ill criminals.1 The official position of the US Supreme court on this issue is as follows: “In 1986 the Supreme Court ruled that execution of the insane was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, based on the nation’s ‘common law heritage’ in which the execution of the insane was considered ‘savage and inhuman’.”2 A similar attitude toward this issuewas expressed during the 1980s by the Safeguard Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty, which was adopted in March 1984 by the UN Committee on Crime Prevention and Control. “The 1984 ‘Safeguards’ has excluded the insane from the death penalty; the 1988 resolution added ‘persons suffering from mental retardation or extremely limited mental competence’.”3 William Schabas mentions that international law excluded certain categories of people from the death penalty, such as: persons under eighteen, pregnant women, the elderly, young mothers, the insane, and mentally handicapped.


Capital Punishment Death Sentence Paranoid Schizophrenia Life Imprisonment Moral Demand 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

    • 1
  1. 1.Tel Aviv UniversityIsrael

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