In an op-ed in The Tennessean, Dr. Keith Caruso, President of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association, shared the reasons behind the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) opposition to capital punishment for those with severe mental illness.

He noted that in July 2020, the APA released a position statement aimed at protecting those with severe mental illness and disabilities, stating: “There should be a moratorium on capital punishment in the United States until jurisdictions seeking to reform the death penalty implement policies and procedures to assure that capital punishment, if used at all, is administered fairly and impartially in accord with the basic requirements of due process.”

Caruso identified the APA’s primary points of concern that “include insufficient attention to mitigating evidence of diminished responsibility of offenders who were suffering from mental disorder or disability at the time of their offenses, unfairness in post-conviction adjudication, and inhumane treatment of persons on death row.”

He explained that those with a mental disorder or disability might have difficulty communicating with or assisting their attorney, and at the time of execution, might not understand the nature and purpose of the punishment.

Caruso noted that “a number of states are pursuing legislation barring the execution of persons with severe mental illness, and the American Bar Association issued a white paper stating that persons with severe mental illness should be exempt from the death penalty.”