Limiting the death penalty

The death penalty is a punishment that is more similar to getting retribution or revenge than to exercising justice. This legal aberration is even more so when the condemned person is an individual with limited faculties and mental retardation.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5–4 vote, ruled on Tuesday that the IQ of a convict is not the only measurement that should be taken into account for an execution.

In 2002, the high court found that it is unconstitutional to execute a person with mental disabilities. However, that ruling did not provide specific guidelines, allowing the states to develop their own. In Florida, like in nine other states, it was determined that individuals with an IQ of 70 or less (the average is 92–109) would be spared; those with 71 or more would be executed.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, backed by the court’s most liberal justices, said that mental disability, especially in an execution, is a condition and not a matter of numbers. His opinion was based in great part on the opinion of health care professionals about the understanding that an individual has of the impact of his or her actions.

This makes more sense than Justice Samuel Alito’s statement that the interpretation of the Eighth Amendment against “cruel and unusual” punishment is one of “society’s standards” that should represent Americans and not a “professional elite.”

The conservative opinion gives free rein to current popular sentiment, which involves resentment as well as irrational vengeance instead of justice based on awareness and responsibility. It is known that capital punishment does not even act as a deterrent. Fortunately, that conservative vision lost.

What is unfortunate is that the death penalty still exists, despite being a punishment that does not allow any room for error, which is tough to guarantee in the judicial system. This is a fitting punishment for governments like those of North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria… and shamefully, the United States. At least, thanks to this decision, there should be fewer executions.