Monday, July 15, 2013

Mixed Feelings On Another Issue ...

Judge halts Georgia execution over injection issue
David Beasley, Reuters - July 15, 2013

Can I just say that I hate everything about this? Not about the stay ... I'm glad about that ... but about the whole question of executing people who are cognitively impaired.

Much as I have mixed feelings about people with disabilities running for high office who I disagree with about everything, the issue of executing people with cognitive impairments confuses the hell out of me. I oppose the death penalty entirely, but the pedantic hemisphere of my brain can't stop quibbling about the arguments that have to be put forward in order for laws to say that it is okay for people with "normal" intelligence, but unconstitutional for people who are "mentally retarded". I understand and sort of buy the idea that comprehending the crime and the punishment is the key here, but I still think it is hair-splitting, and in many cases may not even affect reality. It may be harder to understanding things if you have an IQ below 70, but surely it isn't a bright line divide. If a person really can't understand basic moral concepts about killing and beating people, or about punishment of misdeeds, then what does that say about his or her ability to make other decisions, or about his or her agency ... or of other people with cognitive impairments?

On the other hand, this may be a rare kind of case where the law actually does reflect an instinctive moral revulsion. For a sample of that I recommend the Lars Von Trier film Dancer In The Dark. Fair warning though, it is deeply weird and very upsetting.

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