DAA News Network

USA: Executing people with learning difficulties

Posted 13/9-10 at 22.21

On September 9th, Holly Wood, an African-American with learning difficulties, was executed in Alabama, for the 1993 murder of his Holly Wood - executedformer girlfriend. His appeal, that he has ‘a mental disability', had been turned down by the US Supreme Court, despite a 2002 Court ruling that executing ‘mentally disabled' people is unconstitutional. The reason is because the criteria for what constitutes mental disability have been left to the individual states, many of which have been excessively restrictive in defining what it means.

On September 23rd, Virginia will execute Teresa Lewis, a 40-year-old women with learning difficulties. She will be the first women executed in the state for nearly 100 years.

Lewis pleaded guilty to hiring two men to kill her husband and stepson in 2002 in order to collect an insurance policy. One of the men said he devised the plan himself because he needed money and manipulated Lewis, "an easy target", into participating. Besides her learning disability, Lewis also has ‘dependent personality disorder', an impairment associated with difficulty in understanding and making decisions, low self esteem and impulsivity.


http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-09-08/holly-wood-death-rows-mentally-retarded-inmate/full/ http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2010/09/07-7

Editorial Comment:

State murder, whether by stoning, beheading or the more seemingly humane and clinical lethal injection, is an appalling enough human rights abuse, but what has happened in Alabama and is about to happen in Virginia is disgraceful in a country that sets itself up as a bastion of civilization.

Of course, the imprisoning and execution of people with learning difficulties and/or mental health problems is a world-wide phenomenon. In the USA, the latter group makes up 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners and 64 percent of jail prisoners. Furthermore, since 1984, 60 people with learning difficulties and mental health problems have been executed in the country.

For more information about learning difficulties and the death penalty in the USA, see:




No comments registered

Add your comment:

Written by: