Sunday, March 21, 2010

No Death Penalty for Retarded Man reports on the decision to drop the death penalty in this fascinating case.

SALEM — One of two Oregon State Penitentiary inmates charged with aggravated murder in the killing of another inmate no longer faces the death penalty after experts found that he is mentally retarded.

The inmate, James Demetri Davenport, pleaded guilty Friday and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The 32-year-old Davenport already is serving a life sentence for a previous murder.

Prosecutors said they dropped plans to seek the death penalty against Davenport after his mental disability was confirmed by separate evaluations performed by experts hired by defense lawyers and the prosecution.

But prosecutors said they still plan to seek the death penalty for Davenport’s co-defendant, Isacc Creed Agee, in the February 2008 beating death of 36-year-old Antonio Barrantes-Vasquez.

Do you think this decision is tantamount to going soft on criminals? Should people capable of killing others get a pass because of low intelligence? Does this defeat one of the main benefits of the death penalty, that of ensuring that offenders don't repeat their offenses?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Well, our legal system is more or less premised on a 'knew or should have known' threshold of liability for the damage we do. We don't typically hold minors responsible because we have deemed them legally incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions, which necessarily makes the legally incapable of intentional crime, because they cannot meet the mental state elements.

    I am opposed to the death penalty primarily because I have seen first hand how messed up the legal system can be and I just cannot accept a death penalty in such a fallible system. Morally speaking, I feel that the death penalty is not harsh enough. Let them spend the rest of their days making up the debt they owe for their crimes.

    Either way, those mentally incapable of understanding the consequences of their action cannot, as a matter of law, be found to possess the mens rea that warrants the death penalty.