NEW RESOURCES: Sentence Reversals in Mental Retardation Cases
Prof. John Blume of Cornell University Law School has compiled the cases in which an inmate's death sentence was reduced because of a finding of mental retardation. His research revealed 83 such reversals since 2002. In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to apply the death penalty to defendants with mental retardation. The Court did not, however, establish a definition for mental retardation or determine the procedures for proving a claim of retardation. Some states have not yet passed legislation to determine this process. Litigation continues six years after the Atkins decision regarding the possible retardation of those on death row.
Prof. Blume's research includes the race and gender of the defendant and of the victims in the underlying murder, the existence of IQ scores where known, the limitations on daily functioning exhibited by the inmate, and the legal source supporting the finding of retardation.