Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project says Arkansas has “ignored compelling evidence that undermines the constitutionality” of eight executions planned over a 10-day period in April.
The report notes that the state plans to execute men with intellectual disabilities or severe mental illness. It also questions the quality of legal representation. From a release:
The report notes, “At least five of the eight cases cases involve a person who appears to suffer from a serious mental illness or intellectual impairment. One of these men was twenty at the time of the crime, suffered a serious head injury, and has a 70 IQ score. Another man suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and believes that he is on a mission from God. He sees both his deceased father and reincarnated dogs around the prison.” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly found that executing individuals with intellectual disabilities is unlawful and in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The Court has also found that it is unconstitutional to execute individuals who do not have the basic competency to understand why they are going to be executed.
The report also highlights the abysmal representation that these men have received over the years, stating, “Across the eight cases, the quality of lawyering that we detected falls short of any reasonable standard of effectiveness—one lawyer was drunk in court, while another struggled with mental illness. Several of the lawyers missed deadlines, failed to visit their clients, and continued on a case despite the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
“The quality of lawyering in some these cases is unconscionably bad. Some of these men could not have fared worse even if they had no lawyer at all,” said Jessica Brand, Legal Director for the Fair Punishment Project. “They failed to perform even basic duties, such as hiring a mitigation specialist to evaluate the client’s mental health or talking to members of their client’s family. In many of these cases, the juries and judges never heard crucial evidence that could have spared these men from execution.”