June 22, 2002

RETARDED

RETARDED: That's what the majority ruling in Atkins vs. Virginia is. Scalia's dissent is a thing of beauty, though:

But the Prize for the Court's Most Feeble Effort to fabricate national consensus must go to its appeal (deservedly relegated to a footnote) to the views of assorted professional and religious organizations, members of the so-called world community, and respondents to opinion polls... Equally irrelevant are the practices of the world community, whose notions of justice are (thankfully) not always those of our people. We must never forget that it is a Constitution for the United States of America that we are expounding.
Stevens (who wrote the majority opinion) cited an EU brief-- why not cite a brief from one of the many countries where they execute not only retarded murderers but retarded innocents?

Scalia goes into some 1700s English Common Law for context, a section I found most entertaining. It seems the profoundly retarded, who could not be punished for crimes because they were considered incompetent, were called "idiots," whereas the less severely retarded (like the defendant in this case) were simply "imbeciles," who could be held responsible for their crimes. This was set down in part in the Law of Idiocy and Lunacy. The straightforward naming conventions are refreshing, aren't they? I was jarred even to see "retarded" in the morning papers today-- I wouldn't have been at all surprised if the headlines were about execution of the "mentally handicapable."

Posted by John Tabin at June 22, 2002 12:43 AM
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