Class 529 English 8
Topic: Should mentally ill offenders be held responsible for their actions?
I feel that mentally ill offenders should not be held accountable for their actions. In the state of Florida a man by the name of John Errol Ferguson who has been on Florida’s death row for 34 years and is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. on a Monday. Ferguson brutally killed eight people in 1977 and 1978. Ferguson was diagnosed by doctors a long time ago to having paranoid schizophrenia. Due to the fact the fact that Ferguson is mentally ill he believes that he is the “Prince of God” and that he “can control the sun”.
Although Ferguson was diagnosed as mentally ill, the Supreme Court in Florida found that he was adequate to die. After applying for a mental health test that the Supreme Court had explicitly rejected. The case of Ferguson is a reminder of Georgia’s attempts to execute Warren Lee Hill Jr. who is intellectually disabled. Some states don’t have a problem with taking the life of a human being even if they are mentally ill.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) support that mentally ill people should not be executed. A leading mental health group, Mental Health America, found that about five to ten percent of all death row inmates suffer from a severe mental illness. People that suffer from mental illness are vulnerable to pressure put on them by the police and are more likely to give false confessions. In studies that were done some characteristics associated with mental illness which can lead to false confessions are: impulsivity, deficits in cognitive processing, suggestibility, delusions and extreme compliance. During police interrogations people that face mental illness are more likely to waive rights they don’t understand and more likely to confess falsely.
In order for a defendant to stand trail they must be competent under the United States Constitution. Insanity is usually a defense to the crime that must be raised and proved by the defense. Several defendants who suffer from serious mental illness lacked the capacity that is needed to form a specific intent to kill at the time of their offense. Mentally ill defendants face other unique challenges throughout the trial process such as trusting their lawyers, being properly medicated so that they don’t scare the jurors, and struggling with the effects of the strong doses of anti-psychotic drugs. Anti-psychotic drugs have known sedating properties which can cause defendants to look like they don’t care about the case or as zombies.
Susannah Sheffer who is a staff writer and project director supports the opposition to the death penalty. A person’s mental illness can impact their victims’ families. An example is that Linda Gregory’s husband Gene Gregory was shot by Alan Singletary who was mentally ill. Although the tragedy caused grief in Linda’s family it also sparked her activism. Linda also learned that after the murder Alan Singletary's sister sent the sheriff a letter saying that her family had tried for many years to get her brother help knowing that something bad would eventually happen.
People who eventually became activists on the issue of mental health reform become activists if they had ever had contact with someone who is mentally ill. Those people look forward to seeing what kind of policy reforms seem to be needed. Some families who have had a family member lost to a tragic accident which involved a person who was mentally ill feel that the chance of the death penalty as an answer to their losses is a highly inappropriate way to get a good attempt to comprehend what had led to the murder. Some people feel that sentencing a person who is mentally ill to the death penalty does not provide a peace of mind. People also feel that the death penalty in regards to people who are mentally ill does