Commentary Paper

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Culpability and the Death Penalty The death penalty and the qualifications for its sentencing continues to be a controversial topic in America, especially when it pertains to mental health inmates. The punishment of death is formidable, in states where the death penalty is allowed, as a comprehendible circumstance to deter an individual from a deviant behavior. If the person is capable of understanding the magnitude of the crime they are committing, then they are capable of comprehending the circumstances and consequences associated with that crime. However, if a person is incapable of understanding that same crime, and its implication, this is where the question of if they are deemed competent comes into play. The issue at hand as to capital punishment and its place in the criminal population, is that a noted mental health diagnosis should not automatically eliminate the convicted from consideration in a death penalty sentencing. This information is specific to the death penalty and its place with criminals in conjunction with a mental health diagnosis or compromised cognition. This was brought to light recently from the court ruling that was made in Arora, Colorado, regarding James Holmes, the man who walked into a movie theater and massacred twelve people. He was found guilty of the crime, but was also found mentally insane. This recent ruling did not remove the option of the death penalty in his conviction. The possibility that the defendant might not be eligible for execution based on this reasoning alone is what gave the impression of the blurred line with mental health issues and how that bar is set in who is capable of being executed regardless of mental capacity. There was a possibility of his not being eligible for a death penalty, due to his diagnosis of schizophrenia, protecting him from this form of punishment. (Hughes, 2015) The governor of

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