Atkins v. Virginia is a US Supreme Court case that ruled the execution of intellectually disabled individuals is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.
Atkins v. Virginia is a landmark case decided by the US Supreme Court in 2002, in which the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute people with intellectual disabilities. The Court held that the execution of people with intellectual disabilities violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
The case was brought by Daryl Renard Atkins, who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Virginia. Atkins had an IQ of 59, which placed him in the range of intellectual disability. His attorneys argued that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment, as it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The case ultimately made its way to the US Supreme Court, where the Court ruled in Atkins’ favor.
In its decision, the Court held that the execution of people with intellectual disabilities is cruel and unusual punishment, as it is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society. The Court noted that people with intellectual disabilities have less ability to understand the consequences of their actions and are less culpable for their crimes than other offenders. Moreover, the Court noted that there is a societal consensus against the execution of people with intellectual disabilities, as reflected in the fact that a majority of states had already prohibited the practice.
The decision in Atkins v. Virginia had significant implications for the criminal justice system, as it effectively prohibited states from imposing the death penalty on people with intellectual disabilities. Prior to this decision, many states had laws that allowed for the execution of people with intellectual disabilities, and this case marked a major shift in the legal landscape. The decision has also had a lasting impact on the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities within the criminal justice system, as it has helped to ensure that they are treated more fairly and humanely.
In the years since Atkins v. Virginia was decided, there have been ongoing debates about how to define and identify intellectual disability and about the appropriate legal and ethical treatment of people with intellectual disabilities who are involved in the criminal justice system. However, the decision in Atkins v. Virginia remains an important milestone in the fight for greater justice and fairness in the criminal justice system, and it has helped to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are afforded the protections and rights that they deserve.
[ Glossary ]
Last Modified: 05/04/2023