A recent article by Prof. Jeffrey Kirchmeier of the City University of New York School of Law entitled, “The Undiscovered Country: Execution Competency & Comprehending Death” explores whether mentally disabled inmates who do not understand that execution means the end of their physical life should be spared. Kirchmeier examines Supreme Court precedent under the Eighth Amendment that requires that a condemned defendant be competent in order to be executed. The article argues that the penological goals of the death penalty could not be fulfilled unless the condemned person comprehends what his death means. Kirchmeier writes, “Those who do not comprehend death are not as a category a group of people who will be deterred by the death penalty more than life in prison, and such persons will not be able to appreciate the moral condemnation designed to be delivered by the death penalty.” The article also discusses a standard for comprehension of death consistent with earlier Court rulings. Click here to read the full article.

(J. Kirchmeier, “The Undiscovered Country: Execution Competency & Comprehending Death,” 98 Kentucky Law Journal 263, 298 (2009-2010)). See also Law Reviews, Intellectual Disability and Mental Illness.