Convictions of Innocent People with Intellectual Disability

31 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2019

See all articles by Sheri Lynn Johnson

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School

John H. Blume

Cornell Law School

Amelia Hritz

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: May 16, 2019

Abstract

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that executing individuals with intellectual disability violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. In addition to concerns over culpability and deterrence, the Court’s judgment in Atkins was informed by the heightened “risk of wrongful execution” faced by persons with intellectual disability. This essay explores that question both anecdotally and quantitatively, hoping to illuminate the causes of wrongful conviction of persons with intellectual disability. We provide examples from our experiences in the Cornell Death Penalty Clinic and cases brought to our attention by defense attorneys. We also present data from the National Registry of Exonerations. Then we turn to the causes of the disproportionate wrongful conviction of intellectually disabled persons and conclude by considering implications of those causes for reform.

Keywords: death penalty, intellectual disability, wrongful conviction

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Sheri Lynn and Blume, John H. and Hritz, Amelia, Convictions of Innocent People with Intellectual Disability (May 16, 2019). Albany Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3389049

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-6478 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

John H. Blume

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Amelia Hritz (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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