Virginia To Execute Prisoner with Diminished Capabilities
This report was posted by William Van Ornum on Tuesday but unfortunately disappeared from the site:
Employees in the prison system in Virginia are preparing the chemicals and setting up the execution chamber for a scheduled execution on[today] Thursday, September 23, 2010. Teresa Lewis was convicted of murdering her husband and stepson, as reported in the New York Daily News on Monday, September 10, 2010. Her attorney, James Rocap, has appealed to the United States Supreme Court citing evidence that documents that Ms. Lewis has a severely diminished intellectual capability and was set up to take the blame by the two individuals who carried out the crime.
It is unclear from the published reports if the State of Virginia is utilizing commonly accepted practices of diagnosing mental retardation. Professionals in the field rely on a series of individual intelligence tests given over a period of time as well as adaptive behavior measures and utilize a “standard error of measurement” which views scores as a range, rather than a cutting score. Virginia’s regulations use a cutting score of 70 on an IQ test as the determiner of retardation, rather than commonly used practice of utilizing more information. Ms. Lewis’s IQ is 72.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has acquired a national reputation for egregious abuses of mentally retarded individuals in the past. Governor Mark Warner on May 3, 2002 stated, “Today I offer the Commonwealth’s sincere apology for Virginia’s participation in Eugenics.” The state unveiled a historical marker to commemorate Charlottesville native Carrie Buck (1906-1983), who was the first person sterilized under this law. Later evidence showed that Buck herself as well as many other persons sterilized had no “hereditary defects.” Warner concluded, “We must remember the Commonwealth’s past mistakes in order to prevent them from occurring.”
James Rocap, Teresa Lewis’s lawyer (himself a graduate of Notre Dame University and Georgetown Law School), asked Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell to reconsider his September 17 refusal to intervene with clemency, the Daily News reported. Rocap, in a petition obtained by the Washington Post, wrote: “Respectfully, the decision you announced on December 17, 2010 does not address any of the compelling reasons for clemency that have been advanced, including the significant new evidence that none of the courts have previously considered.”
William Van Ornum
"The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor."
Ms. Lewis identity as the perpetrator is not in doubt, but her responsibility (in the moral sense) given evidence of significantly diminished capacity, is open to question. Further, it is simply not credible for Virginia to claim it cannot defend its ciitzens from Ms. Lewis except by executing her. Therefore, her execution does satisfy the criteria set forth by the Church.
The American Bishops, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken out forcefully against the death penalty, and have called for its abolition in America. Pope John Paul said it best when he described it as "cruel and unnecssary."
A bit of history is instructive. My home state of MN had one of the best institutions for the retarded in the country. It also had a practice of "voluntary" sterilization. Thousands of Minnesotans were sterilized in the years from 1928 to the late 50's. There were investigations of the practice that showed how the residents were coerced into agreeing to be sterilized. A medical doctor, Charles Dight, was the founder of the eugenics movement in 1923. He believed in the segregation and sterilization of the "defective" ( the "feebleminded and insane"). The biggest adversary was the Catholic Church and also social workers and some state officials. This doctor wrote to Hitler wishing the Nazi efforts in eugenics to be a great success.
Eerily some of the factors supporting eugenics during that period are present today. The increasing use of sterilization was seen as connected with rising welfare caseloads during tough economic times. While there was opposition from the Church, overall the public was INDIFFERENT!!