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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Death penalty ruling will clog court system

Friday, June 21, 2002

The United States Supreme Court opened the biggest can of worms in a quarter century Thursday with a highly controversial ruling on the death penalty. It will take years to unravel this historic event and it will mean that hundreds of death row inmates will undoubtedly now have their sentences reduced to life.

The high court ruled that executing mentally retarded killers is cruel punishment. Now on the surface that ruling may even seem appropriate. But the problem lies squarely in the definition of "mentally retarded" and that's the central issue and the opening of the lawsuit floodgate.

Death penalty opponents argue that anyone with below average intelligence should qualify as mentally retarded. Well folks, the simple truth is that countless murderers have below average intelligence. So the fear is that the ruling will effectively remove the death penalty as an option for society in far too many cases.

Defense lawyers argue that anyone with low intelligence has limited mental capabilities and that should exempt them from the death penalty. They even argue that drug use limits mental capabilities and that too should exempt them from the death penalty. Effectively that would move most capital murder cases to life imprisonment. How tragic for our society.

If you believe the death penalty is a true deterrent to crime, then Thursday's ruling is a real shocker. Society will continue to pay a high price for this ruling in so many ways. It's just beyond my imagination how the high court could give this blank check to defense attorneys.

The courts of this nation will be overwhelmed with appeals as lawyers scramble to take their low IQ clients through the appeals process. And society will pay a high price indeed for this misguided ruling.

Murder is murder. Simply because the murderer has a low IQ should not alone be sufficient to remove the death penalty option.

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