“Individuals with severe mental illness are at special risk for wrongful conviction. They are more likely to be susceptible to making false confessions, have extreme difficulty assisting their counsel, are poor witnesses, and their demeanor can create a false impression of dangerousness or lack of remorse. These factors were critical to the Supreme Court’s ban on the execution of defendants with intellectual disability in Atkins v. Virginia. These same concerns are amplified for individuals with severe mental illness.”
- Kelley Henry, veteran capital habeas attorney
“NAMI believes that it is unjust for the state to execute people who, because of severe mental illness, could not appreciate the wrongfulness of their actions, who could neither make rational decisions nor exercise control over their actions. We maintain that exclusions currently applied to juveniles and defendants with intellectual disabilities should extend to those with severe mental illness.”
- Sita Diehl, director of State Policy and Advocacy, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
“You can’t punish mental illness out of a person; the only way you can defend society is to provide individuals with treatment. To then execute her would not have served any purpose. You would be murdering a mental illness with a body attached, if you will.”
- Carla Jacobs, whose mother was murdered by her mentally ill sister; Calif.
“I no longer believe that you can fix the death penalty. I learned that the death penalty throws millions of dollars down the drain – money that I could be putting directly to work fighting crime every day – while dragging victims’ families through a long and tortuous process that only exacerbates their pain. Give a law enforcement professional like me that $250 million, and I’ll show you how to reduce crime. The death penalty isn’t anywhere on my list.”
- Police Chief James Abbott, West Orange, N.J.
“Our prisons are now filled with the mentally ill, and in many instances the only way a person can receive proper mental health care is by committing a crime. The financial resources now spent on implementing the death penalty would be better spent if redirected to treatment of those with serious mental illness, thereby preventing future acts of violence.”
- Amanda and Nick Williams, murder victim’s parents; Calif.
“I worked in corrections for 30 years … I came to believe that the death penalty should be replaced with life without the possibility of parole. I didn’t reach that conclusion because I’m soft on crime. My No. 1 concern is public safety. I wish the public knew how much the death penalty affects their wallets.”
- Jeanne Woodford, former warden of San Quentin
“I am here today with other family members of murder victims, feeling our shared losses. I am here today with family members of people who have been executed, deeply aware of how close our family came to suffering that additional loss too. And I am here with others who are family members of both the victim and the person responsible for the crime, saying that the death penalty is not the way to respond to tragedies like ours.”
- Kim Crespi, whose husband murdered their 5-year-old twins under the effects of severe mental illness; N.C.
“The death penalty is inefficient and extravagantly expensive. Spending scarce public resources on after-school programs, mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, education, more crime labs, and new technologies, or on hiring more police officers, would truly help create safer communities.”
- Norm Stamper, 35-year veteran police officer; chief of Police; Seattle
“I’ve been waiting 25 years for this. I have been waiting for people to come together and say that the death penalty is not the answer to the problem of untreated mental illness in our country.”
- Lois and Ken Robison; parents of a mentally ill man who received the death penalty in Texas
Master Patrolman Marc Easley, 27-Year-Veteran Chattanooga Police Officer (ret.)