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Mental Disorder and Criminal Law

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Recent Supreme Court decisions categorically preclude the application of capital punishment to convicted offenders who were below the age of eighteen or mentally retarded at the time they committed the crimes for which they were sentenced.1 Neither opinion suggests that offenders in these categories cannot be criminally responsible for their offenses, and the Atkins opinion explicitly recognizes that some mentally retarded offenders can qualify as criminally responsible for their offenses.2 In each case, part of the reasoning in support of the exemption from capital sentences purports to show that capital punishment of these offenders would serve neither the retributive nor the deterrent functions of criminal punishment.3 Both opinions...

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