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Mental retardation

Cornell University Law School

Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy

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Of Atkins And Men: Deviations From Clinical Definitions Of Mental Retardation In Death Penalty Cases, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Christopher Seeds Jul 2009

Of Atkins And Men: Deviations From Clinical Definitions Of Mental Retardation In Death Penalty Cases, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Christopher Seeds

Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy

Under Atkins v. Virginia, the Eighth Amendment exempts from execution individuals who meet the clinical definitions of mental retardation set forth by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the American Psychiatric Association. Both define mental retardation as significantly subaverage intellectual functioning accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning, originating before the age of 18. Since Atkins, most jurisdictions have adopted definitions of mental retardation that conform to those definitions. But some states, looking often to stereotypes of persons with mental retardation, apply exclusion criteria that deviate from and are more restrictive than the accepted scientific and clinical …