What is the death penalty?

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is a government sanctioned punishment in which a person is put to death by the state for a particular crime. Thirty-one states, the federal government, and the U.S. military currently permit the death penalty.

How does the death penalty affect individuals with whom iustitia works?

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court issued a momentous ruling stating that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute inmates with intellectual disabilities. iustitia welcomes opportunities to represent clients who have been placed on death row despite presenting signs of intellectual disability and advocates on their behalf.

How does iustitia advocate and educate on this issue?

iustitia aims to ensure that the legal prohibition on executing intellectually disabled individuals is upheld despite the range of standards used by different states. In particular, iustitia encourages states to implement a standard that takes into account the medical definition of intellectual disabilities and avoids classifying individuals based on one factor. 

Recent Developments:

  • June 2016: The Supreme Court agreed to determine the constitutionality of how Texas decides who is mentally competent enough to be put to death. The defendant’s attorneys argue that his mental competency was gauged using a decades-old definition of intellectual disability, rather than current medical standards.
  • May 2014: In Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court held Florida's strict IQ cutoff for determining intellectual disability in capital cases unconstitutional.

Read more on our blog.