The jury's decision n Colorado theater shooter James Eagan Holmes – life in prison without parole instead of execution – reflects the nation's attitude about such cases tied to mental illness, says the Christian Science Monitor. While most Americans still favor the death penalty (63-33 percent for those convicted of murder, says the Gallup survey), a clear majority oppose the ultimate punishment for those diagnosed with severe mental illness amounting to insanity: 58-28 percent, a Public Policy Polling survey found in December.
That opposition is consistent across party affiliations: 62 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Republicans, and 51 percent of independents agree that mentally ill persons should not be executed. Similar majorities were found across both genders, as well as economic and education levels. “The poll joins other new data demonstrating that sentencing trends are down across the country for death-eligible defendants with severe mental illness,” said University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law Prof. Robert Smith, who commissioned the survey. “Combining this public polling, sentencing practices, and the recommendations of the mental health medical community, it's clear that a consensus is emerging against the execution of a person … who suffers from a debilitating illness which is similar to intellectual disability in that it lessens both his culpability and arguable social value of his execution,” he said