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Killer Instinct

Reported by Ellen - February 9, 2005

Those people who have seen the featurette on the Outfoxed DVD may recall hearing me remark on the mean-spiritedness of FOX News. The same thought occurred to me again listening to Judge Andrew Napolitano Monday, 2/7/05, as he expressed his obvious disappointment that convicted killer Daryl Atkins might be spared from execution because he's retarded.

Readers may remember that it was Atkins' case that prompted the US Supreme Court to rule that a retarded person could not be executed. Since then, Atkins' IQ has risen a few points and may now be high enough to qualify him for the death penalty after all. Judge Napolitano, subbing for John Gibson on The Big Story, discussed the issue with a defense attorney named David Gossett who is handling a similar case.

Gossett said that Atkins' IQ had originally been measured at 59. The state of Virginia, where he was convicted, defines retardation as being below 70. Gossett said the usual range is 70-75 because IQ scores fluctuate. Atkins took a second test in which he scored a 74, then another where he scored 76.

The fact that Atkins score was still low enough to make him at least borderline retarded never seemed to matter to Napolitano. Napolitano showed no mercy as he argued for Atkins' death. "What does it mean to be mentally retarded? I mean he kidnapped, he used a gun, he used an atm card, he used somebody else's card at an atm machine, and he murdered somebody. Does he not know right from wrong?"

Gossett responded that people who are mentally retarded do know right from wrong but they don't understand the consequences of their actions.

Napolitano: So if he knows right from wrong and if the evidence of guilt is overwhelming and the trial was fair and Virginia says when you kidnap somebody and murder them and we catch you and convict you you're going to be executed, why shouldn't he be executed? Because he's childlike? (Said with disbelief)

Gossett repeated that it's because retarded people don't understand the consequences of their actions. He said they are also easily maniuplated. He told the story of a mentally retarded prisoner scheduled to die in Texas who was given his last meal and asked to save his dessert until after the execution.

Napolitano either ignored that explanation or he didn't get it. Refusing to take no for an answer, he asked, "Why shouldn't someone who's childlike and innocent be executed? He couldn't have been childlike and innocent when he killed his victim."

Gossett once again explained that it isn't that retarded people are childlike, it's that they don't understand the consequences of their actions. This time he added that the reason is also because "The Supreme Court said that. We save the death penalty for the worst of the worst."

Nobody mentioned anything about having compassion or mercy. Maybe there just isn't room for that in today's world.

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