|Atkins v. Virginia|
Supreme Court of the United States
|Argued February 20, 2002|
Decided June 20, 2002
|A Virginia law allowing the execution of mentally handicapped individuals violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments. Supreme Court of Virginia reversed and remanded.|
|Chief Justice: William Rehnquist|
Associate Justices: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer
|Majority by: Stevens|
Joined by: O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
Dissent by: Rehnquist
Joined by: Scalia, Thomas
Dissent by: Scalia
Joined by: Rehnquist, Thomas
|U.S. Const. amend. VIII|
Atkins v. William Hubbs Rehnquist (October 1 1924 – September 3 2005 was an American lawyer, jurist, and a political figure who served as an Associate Justice John Paul Stevens (born April 20, 1920) is currently the most senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Sandra Day O'Connor (born March 26, 1930) is an American Jurist. (born March 11, 1936) is an American Jurist and the second most senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Anthony McLeod Kennedy (born July 23, 1936) has been an Associate Justice of the U For the Australian artist see David Henry Souter. David Hackett Souter (ˈsutɚ born September 17, 1939) has been an Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an American Jurist. He has been serving as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg (born March 15 1933 Brooklyn New York) is an Associate Justice on the U Stephen Gerald Breyer (born August 15 1938 is an American Attorney and Jurist. The Eighth Amendment ( Amendment VIII) to the United States Constitution is part of the United States Bill of Rights which took effect in 1791 Virginia, , is a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6-3, that executing the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. See also 2002 (disambiguation Year 2002 ( MMII) was a Common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial body in the United States and leads the federal judiciary. Mental retardation is a generalized triarchic disorder characterized by subaverage cognitive functioning and deficits in two or more adaptive behaviors with onset before the age The Eighth Amendment ( Amendment VIII) to the United States Constitution is part of the United States Bill of Rights which took effect in 1791 Punishment is the practice of imposing something unpleasant or aversive on a person or animal usually in response to disobedient or morally wrong behavior
About 2 in the morning on August 16, 1996, following a day spent together drinking alcohol and smoking Marijuana, Daryl Atkins and his accomplice, William Jones, drove to a convenience store where they abducted Eric Nesbitt, an airman from nearby Langley Air Force Base. Events 1384 - The Hongwu Emperor of Ming China, Emperor Dong hears a case of a couple who tore paper money bills while fighting Year 1996 ( MCMXCVI) was a Leap year starting on Monday (link will display full 1996 Gregorian calendar) Cannabis, also known as marijuana or marihuana, or ganja (from Hindi / Sanskrit: गांजा gānjā hemp) is a Langley Air Force Base is located three Nautical miles (6 km) north of the Central business district of the city of Hampton, Virginia Unsatisfied with the $60 they found in his wallet, Atkins and Jones drove Nesbitt in his own vehicle to a nearby ATM and forced him to withdraw a further $200. In spite of Nesbitt's pleas, the two abductors then drove him to an isolated location, where he was shot eight times, killing him.
Footage of Atkins and Jones in the vehicle with Nesbitt was captured on the ATM's CCTV camera, and further forensic evidence implicating the two was found in Nesbitt's abandoned vehicle. Closed-circuit television ( CCTV) is the use of Video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place limited set of monitors The two suspects were quickly tracked down and arrested. In custody, each man claimed that the other had pulled the trigger. Atkins' version of the events, however, was found to contain a number of inconsistencies. Doubts concerning Atkins's testimony were strengthened when a cell-mate claimed that Atkins had confessed to him that he had shot Nesbitt. A deal of life imprisonment was negotiated with Jones in return for his full testimony against Atkins. The jury decided that Jones's version of events was the more coherent and credible, and convicted Atkins of capital murder. Murder is the unlawful killing of another human person with Malice aforethought, as defined in Common Law countries
During the penalty phase of the trial, the defense presented Atkins's school records and the results of an IQ test carried out by clinical psychologist Dr. An Intelligence Quotient or IQ is a score derived from one of several different Standardized tests attempting to measure Intelligence. Evan Nelson, that placed his score at 59. On this basis they proposed that he was "mildly mentally retarded". Mental retardation is a generalized triarchic disorder characterized by subaverage cognitive functioning and deficits in two or more adaptive behaviors with onset before the age Atkins was nevertheless sentenced to death. Capital punishment, the death penalty or execution, is the Killing of a person by judicial process as Punishment.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the conviction but reversed the sentence after finding that an improper sentencing verdict form had been used. The Supreme Court of Virginia is the highest court in the US state of Virginia. At retrial, the prosecution proved two aggravating factors under Virginia law -- that Atkins posed a risk of "future dangerousness," based on a string of previous violent convictions, and that the offense was committed in a vile manner. The state's witness, Dr Stanton Samenow, countered the defense's arguments that Atkins was mentally retarded, stating that Atkins's vocabulary, general knowledge and behavior suggested that he possessed at least average intelligence. Stanton Samenow (born in 1941 is an American Psychologist and Writer. As a result, Atkins's death sentence was upheld. The Virginia Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the sentence based on a prior Supreme Court decision, Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989). Penry v Lynaugh,, sanctioned the death penalty for mentally retarded offenders because the Court determined executing the mentally retarded was not "cruel and unusual Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past Court cases either in special series of books called reporters Justice Cynthia D. Kinser authored the five-member majority. Cynthia D Kinser (born December 20, 1951) is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia who was elected by the Virginia General Assembly to Justices Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr. and Lawrence L. Koontz, Jr. each authored dissenting opinions and joined in each other's dissent. Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr (born 1955 Norfolk Virginia is the first African American chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court. Lawrence Larkins Koontz Jr (born January 25 1940 Roanoke Virginia) is a Virginia jurist currently in his second twelve year term on the Supreme Court of Virginia
Because of what it perceived to be a shift in the judgments of state legislatures as to whether the mentally retarded are appropriate candidates for execution in the thirteen years since Penry was decided, the Supreme Court agreed to review Atkins' death sentence. In the United States of America, a state legislature is a generic term referring to the legislative body of any of the country's 50 states. The Court heard oral arguments in the case on February 20, 2002. Events 1472 - Orkney and Shetland are left by Norway to Scotland, due to a Dowry payment See also 2002 (disambiguation Year 2002 ( MMII) was a Common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar.
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution generally forbids cruel and unusual punishments. In the ruling it was stated that, unlike other provisions of the Constitution, the Eighth Amendment should be interpreted in light of the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society. " The best evidence on this score was determined to be the judgment of state legislatures. Accordingly, the Court had previously found that the death penalty was inappropriate for the crime of rape, Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584 (1977), or for those convicted of felony murder who neither themselves killed, attempted to kill, or intended to kill, Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982). Rape, also referred to as Sexual assault, is an Assault by a person involving Sexual intercourse with or Sexual penetration of another person Coker v Georgia,, held that the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution forbade the Death penalty for the crime of rape of an adult woman Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past Court cases either in special series of books called reporters Enmund v Florida, 458 US 782 (1982 was a 5-4 decision in which the United States Supreme Court applied its capital proportionality principle to set aside the Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past Court cases either in special series of books called reporters The Court found that the Eighth Amendment forbids the imposition of the death penalty in these cases because "most of the legislatures that have recently addressed the matter" have rejected the death penalty for these offenders, and the Court will generally defer to the judgments of those bodies.
The Court then described how a national consensus that the mentally retarded should not be executed had emerged. In 1986, Georgia was the first state to outlaw the execution of the mentally retarded. Year 1986 ( MCMLXXXVI) was a Common year starting on Wednesday (link displays 1986 Gregorian calendar) The State of Georgia ( is a state in the United States and was one of the original Thirteen Colonies that revolted against British rule Congress followed two years later, and the next year Maryland joined these two jurisdictions. The United States Congress is the bicameral Legislature of the federal government of the United States of America, consisting of two houses Thus, when the Court confronted the issue in Penry in 1989, the Court could not say that a national consensus against executing the mentally retarded had emerged. Year 1989 ( MCMLXXXIX) was a Common year starting on Sunday (link displays 1989 Gregorian calendar) Over the next twelve years, nineteen more states exempted the mentally retarded from capital punishment under their laws, bringing the total number of states to twenty-one, plus the federal government. In light of the "consistency of direction of change" toward a prohibition on the execution of the mentally retarded, and the relative rarity of such executions in states that still allow it, the Court proclaimed that a "national consensus has developed against it. " The Court, however, left it to individual states to make the difficult decision regarding what determines mental retardation.
Also, the "relationship between mental retardation and the penological purposes served by the death penalty" justifies a conclusion that executing the mentally retarded is cruel and unusual punishment that the Eighth Amendment should forbid. In other words, unless it can be shown that executing the mentally retarded promotes the goals of retribution and deterrence, doing so is nothing more than "purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering," making the death penalty cruel and unusual in those cases. Being mentally retarded means that a person not only has substandard intellectual functioning but also significant limitations in adaptive skills such as communication, self-care, and self-direction. These deficiencies typically manifest before the age of eighteen. Although they can know the difference between right and wrong, these deficiencies mean they have a lesser ability to learn from experience, engage in logical reasoning, and understand the reactions of others. This means that inflicting the death penalty on one mentally retarded individual is less likely to deter other mentally retarded individuals from committing crimes. As for retribution, society's interest in seeing that a criminal get his "just deserts" means that the death penalty must be confined to the "most serious" of murders, not simply the average murder. The goal of retribution is not served by imposing the death penalty on a group of people who have a significantly lesser capacity to understand why they are being executed.
Because the mentally retarded are not able to communicate with the same sophistication as the average offender, there is a greater likelihood that their deficiency in communicative ability will be interpreted by juries as a lack of remorse for their crimes. They typically make poor witnesses, being more prone to suggestion and willing to "confess" in order to placate or please their questioner. As such, there is a greater risk that the jury may impose the death penalty despite the existence of evidence that suggests that a lesser penalty should be imposed. In light of the "evolving standards of decency" that the Eighth Amendment demands, the fact that the goals of retribution and deterrence are not served as well in the execution of the mentally retarded, and the heightened risk that the death penalty will be imposed erroneously, the Court concluded that the Eighth Amendment forbids the execution of the mentally retarded.
In dissent, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William Rehnquist argued that in spite of the increased number of states which had outlawed the execution of the mentally retarded, there was no clear national consensus, and that even given if there were, there was no basis in the Eighth Amendment for using such measures of opinion to determine what is "cruel and unusual". (born March 11, 1936) is an American Jurist and the second most senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an American Jurist. He has been serving as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United William Hubbs Rehnquist (October 1 1924 – September 3 2005 was an American lawyer, jurist, and a political figure who served as an Associate Justice Justice Antonin Scalia commented in his dissent that "seldom has an opinion of this court rested so obviously upon nothing but the personal views of its members". The citing of an amicus brief from the European Union also drew criticism from Chief Justice Rehnquist, who denounced the "Court's decision to place weight on foreign laws. "
Ironically, although Atkins's case and ruling may have saved other mentally retarded inmates from the death penalty, a jury in Virginia decided in July 2005 that he was intelligent enough to be executed as the constant contact he had with his lawyers had intellectually stimulated him and raised his IQ above 70, making him competent to be put to death under Virginia law. The Commonwealth of Virginia ( is an American state 2005: January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October An Intelligence Quotient or IQ is a score derived from one of several different Standardized tests attempting to measure Intelligence. The prosecution had argued that his poor school performance was caused by his use of alcohol and drugs, and that his lower scores in earlier IQ tests were tainted. His execution date was set for December 2, 2005 but was later stayed. Events 1409 - The University of Leipzig opens 1755 - The second Eddystone Lighthouse is destroyed by fire Year 2005 ( MMV) was a Common year starting on Saturday (link displays full calendar of the Gregorian calendar.
However, in January 2008, his sentence was commuted to life in prison due to evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the original case .