“He did a terrible thing, but he was sick. Where is the compassion? Is this the best our society can do?”
– Yvonne Panetti, mother of Scott Panetti, mentally ill man on death row in Texas
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 6, 2003)
The execution of those with mental illness or “the insane” is clearly prohibited by international law. Virtually every country in the world prohibits the execution of people with mental illness.
The execution of the insane – someone who does not understand the reason for, or the reality of, his or her punishment – violates the U.S. Constitution (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). The Ford decision left the determination of sanity up to each state. Constitutional protections for those with other forms of mental illness are minimal, however, and dozens of prisoners have been executed despite suffering from serious mental illness. The National Association of Mental Health has estimated that five to ten percent of those on death row have serious mental illness.
The State of Texas ranks 46th out of the 50 U.S. states in terms of the amount of money spent per capita in the treatment of the mentally ill, including funds for mental health services in jails and prisons (News 8 Austin, April 21, 2003). It spends an average of $2.3 million to try a death penalty case. (Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992).
Read the full report: USA:The execution of mentally ill offenders