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January 31, 2015

Ohio's current capital laws and the dynamic realities of Ohio and US death penalty history

As mentioned in class, one class activity for the coming week(s) will be to work through how modern post-Furman capital punishment laws might get applied to the (in)famous Unibomber, Ted Kaczynski.  (Ted is currently an LWOP resident at superman ADX Florence in Colorado and in the past was comically portrayed by Will Farrell).  I will not aggressively quiz anyone about doctrinal specifics, but the rest of our death penalty discussions will be enriched if you take time to analyze how Ted's case might be litigated in prominent death penalty states like Florida and Texas and Ohio. 

We could easily spend the rest of the semester discussing the history and modern specifics of the death penalty in specific jurisdictions like Florida and Texas and Ohio and US.  I will reference this history and modern practices in class over the next few weeks, and here are some links concerning the two jurisdictions in which we operate to provide a (low-stress, high-learning) chance to discover a lot more about these matters:

Links with background on Ohio's history and practices in the administration of the death penalty 

Links with background on US history and practices in the administration of the death penalty 

Based on my hope that your "who radar" is now fully operational, I would be eager to hear your views (in the comments or in class) as to which "whos" have had the most impact on the operation of Ohio's death penalty system throughout the state's history (based, perhaps, on the Ohio DRC's account of this history).

January 31, 2015 in Aggravators and mitigators, Class activities, Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink


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This article is a MUST read!

Posted by: Hallie Saferin | Feb 3, 2015 3:04:57 PM

*Texas Sending Man to Death Chamber on Thursday Based on 'Of Mice and Men' (Huffington Post):

According to Thomas Steinbeck, his Nobel-winning father, John Steinbeck, would turn in his grave if he knew his fictional character, Lennie Small, helped Texas courts decide who qualifies for the death penalty. Lennie, from Of Mice and Men, is an enormous, ungainly, mentally defective man who loves to pet dead mice. Invoking Lennie as its benchmark, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals announced rules that fail to protect persons with intellectual disability from execution. Because of these unscientific and fictional standards, Robert Ladd, a man who has an IQ of 67, faces the death chamber this Thursday.

Under the federal Constitution, if a defendant has intellectual disability he or she cannot be executed. But the Court of Criminal Appeals -- the highest court in Texas for criminal cases -- has dodged this simple rule by applying its own stereotypes, rather than science, to craft a definition of intellectual disability. In doing so, the court announced that it would not provide protections for persons who are less disabled than Lennie Small without more direction from the Texas legislature.

There are clear, long established clinical definitions for determining intellectual disability. Developed by mental health organizations, these standards are used to evaluate intellectual disability for school, social services, social security, or -- in other states -- eligibility for execution. Indeed, the Court of Criminal Appeals acknowledges there is a known scientific definition of intellectual disability but then adds its own guidelines -- the so-called "Briseno factors." These factors have never been endorsed by any scientific or medical association. Indeed, the scientific andmedical communities have rejected the Brisino factors as patently invalid.

For Robert Ladd, the Texas Criminal Court's fictional standard may well be lethal. With his IQ of 67, he clearly meets the first part of the widely accepted definition of intellectual disability. The evidence also shows he satisfies the second and third parts of the definition -- significant adaptive deficits and onset by age 18.

In 1970, when Robert Ladd was 13 years old, a psychiatrist working for the State of Texas concluded that he was "fairly obviously retarded." As an adult, Mr. Ladd received services at the Andrews Center, a non-profit comprehensive mental health and mental retardation center. There, he worked a job in which he was paid less than minimum wage, because there is an exemption from the minimum for people who are intellectually disabled. He had a case manager who drove him to work and helped with his shopping, because he could not manage his money or pick out clothes of the right size.

For a mental health professional utilizing accepted clinical standards, the diagnosis is clear and straightforward: Robert Ladd has intellectual disability. He is not Lennie, but as Thomas Steinbeck puts it: "the character of Lennie was never intended to be used to diagnose a medical condition like intellectual disability." By requiring that a person match a character in a novella in order to be afforded the protections of the Constitution, Texas has strangely, and tragically, turned fiction into fact.

Posted by: Hallie Saferin | Feb 3, 2015 3:10:26 PM

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