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Mrs. Carter Responds To Supreme Court Ruling

Statement by Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter on the Supreme Court Ban
on Executing The Mentally Retarded

I applaud the United States Supreme Court's ruling today that executing people with mental retardation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and is therefore unconstitutional. Today's ruling is the latest, most resounding indication of shifting public attitudes about government executions. Eighteen states already prohibit capital punishment for people with severe developmental disabilities and 16 of these have banned such executions within the last dozen years. The death penalty should not be imposed on those who are least capable of mature understanding and therefore least blameworthy, no matter how grave their crimes.

The same principle also applies to cases involving people suffering from mental illnesses. As the American public becomes better informed about mental illnesses, I hope the same consensus will evolve regarding the execution of people who are mentally ill when they commit a crime. It is my hope that no more mentally retarded or mentally ill individuals will be executed in the United States.

Read Mrs. Carter's October 2000 statement to the American Bar Association, calling for a moratorium on executions.

Mrs. Rosalynn Carter is chair of the Carter Center's Mental Health Program in Atlanta. The Carter Center is the nonprofit, nongovernmental organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. For 20 years, the Center has improved the lives of millions of people in 65 countries by waging peace, fighting disease, and building hope.

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