In March of this year Missouri executed 74-year-old Cecil Clayton who was convicted of killing a deputy sheriff in 1994. Earlier in his life, Clayton’s behavior and personality were totally changed after an accident in a saw mill caused a traumatic injury resulting in the removal of part of his brain. The IQ of this once intelligent man dropped to 71. He was also diagnosed as a schizophrenic with extreme paranoia. In the decade that preceded his execution six psychiatric experts said he didn’t even understand that he was on death row. Yet the state of Missouri denied his request for clemency.
The distinction for a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea is so vague. I could convincingly argue that most teen agers are so addled that they don’t know the difference between right and wrong. They need standardized guidelines set down by mental health professionals to determine if a person is too mentally ill to be judged properly by the court system.
What gets me is the immorality of getting people who were ill when they committed an act and then getting them better so they can be tried and possibly executed. The whole point is they were ill at the time they committed an act and no amount of getting them better is going to change that fact. People should be treated judicially as they were at the time of the act only.
If someone with a brain tumor committed a violent crime because he was delusional - he would probably not be sentenced to death, but its a bit different when it comes to schizophrenia or another severe mental illness.