Individualizing justice after Atkins

S. Jan Brakel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


On August 6, 2005, newspapers and other media outlets reported that Daryl Atkins had been determined by a Virginia jury not to be retarded and therefore was mentally competent to receive the death penalty. A judge immediately scheduled his execution for December. Atkins, of course, is the convicted murderer whose case three years earlier had led the U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, to declare that mentally retarded offenders are constitutionally exempt from the death penalty. While a bitter irony for Atkins, his family, and supporters, the Virginia jury's finding suggests that the practical effects of the Supreme Court's decision are less dramatic than many had anticipated. It shows that mere labels need not be determinative and that judges and juries as well as mental health experts called to assist them in capital cases can continue to work toward an individualized brand of justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-104
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 18 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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