In the United States there are about 3,700 people on death row. There are some arguments about how many are mentally retarded, but the number is estimated at about one-fourth to one-third (www.aclu.org/DeathPenalty/. 1). Being mentally retarded does not mean being insane or having brain damage. Mental retardation is a lifelong condition of impaired or incomplete mental development. Mentally retarded people have an IQ below 70 while an average person has an IQ of 100. These people are like small children in the body of an adult, and the legal system executes them for crimes that they can't comprehend. This is cruel and unusual punishment and violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Mentally retarded people should not be given the death penalty because of their diminished capacity to understand. .
Mentally retarded people are limited in their ability to learn from their experiences, to control their impulses, or to think in long-range terms (Fellner 2). Children out grow these attitudes, but those that are retarded cannot. They can't reason or develop skills that they need to live in this world. A retarded person is simply not the same as a regular adult, because they have grievous difficulties with communication, language, logic, learning, foresight, strategic thinking, planning, and understanding consequences (Fellner 1). To be able to plead mental retardation to a judge, the person must have three things; their IQ must be 70 or lower, "they must have a significant limitation in adaptive functioning in areas .
such as communication, self-care, academics, and self direction", and both of these earlier conditions must have been evident before the age of 18 (www.aclu.org/DeathPenalty/. 1). These are what the judge has to consider before sentencing.
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, an estimated 35 mentally retarded people have been executed (Fellner 1) The death penalty is suppose to be reserved for the most blameworthy offenders based careful consideration of their background, character, motivation, and circumstances of their crimes (Fellner 1).