Friday, January 16, 2009

Op-Ed: Prohibit the Death Penalty for Offenders with Mental Illness

Here's an op-ed that appeared in the The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana), from Kathleen Bayes. Bayes is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Fort Wayne.

Indiana should pass bill to prevent death penalty for severely mentally

Thank You, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel editorial staff for your continued strong objection to reinstating the death sentence for Joseph Corcoran. Your editorial on Jan. 5 inspired me to continue the fight.

Please, please, Gov. Daniels, choose to commute the death sentence of Corcoran to life in prison without parole. End this pathetic injustice and enormous waste of money.

Order the Indiana attorney general's office to forgo any further appeals. Surely, they have more useful, productive ways to spend their time and money.

In the official study of the death penalty in Indiana, commissioned by Gov. O'Bannon and published in 2002, the costs to the county and state for an average death-penalty trial through all appeals totaled $568,836. That total did not include the cost of the defense in federal court and in clemency proceedings, all of which are paid by the federal courts and are substantial. The death penalty and its enormous cost should be reserved for the worst of the worst, if it continues to exist in Indiana at all.

Words cannot express Fort Wayne National Alliance on Mental Illness members' disappointment that the U.S. Court of Appeals has permitted Indiana to choose to reinstate the death penalty for Corcoran once again.

Corcoran is extremely mentally ill. This truth is no longer in question.

Corcoran is absolutely consumed with the brain illness, paranoid schizophrenia. Absolutely no one denies this truth after his 10 years in prison. Three experts say his mental illness is so severe that he is incompetent to make rational decisions. The state did not contradict this expert testimony. Corcoran's pattern of behavior over the last 10 years verifies this truth. One of the three appeals court judges, Judge Ann Claire Williams, agreed that Corcoran was mentally incompetent to waive
his right to having the trial court review his case.

This man is so ill with schizophrenia that all he wants to do is die. His profound schizophrenia prevented him from cooperating with his defense when he was first tried and convicted. His current defense attorney told me that no one wanted to take his case because he is so uncooperative in
his delusions. He just wants people to help him die, signing waiver after waiver of his appeals rights.

Putting Corcoran to death serves no moral purpose. Killing him will not deter future criminal activity driven by mental illness.

There is no logic, no rationale, no plan, nothing gained when a severely mentally ill person is overcome by the voices in his head and commits a capital crime. It is not an act of conscious will or choice. There is no way to deter total irrationality by punishment. Deterrence comes only from
treatment. Members of NAMI who live with mental illness will often tell us about irrational, regrettable behavior that resulted from their brain malfunction, not their conscious will. They will tell us how sorry they are when they return to sanity by effective treatment. They will tell us how hard they work to fix the damage the illness caused. Indiana chose not to execute children and the severely retarded. Indiana should also exempt the profoundly mentally ill.

No one is clamoring for Corcoran's execution except the attorney general's office. The grieving family has steadfastly remained silent. Let the torment of the resurrection of Corcoran's impending death pass from them. Release them from reliving this grief every two years.

The Indiana Legislature must change the law by passing Senate Bill 22. It will prohibit the death penalty in cases where a defendant is found to be afflicted with severe and persistent mental illness, carefully defined to avoid abuse. Senate Bill 22 will save the state of Indiana a lot of money. The proposed law has been passed out of the Bowser Commission, established by the Senate for thorough examination and review. It is strongly supported by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, Mental Health American, NAMI National, the American Bar Association, many other organizations and most law enforcement personnel.

The state of Indiana should save its money and spend it on treatment, instead of punishment. Treatment is the true source of safety for all of us.

Kathleen A. Bayes is executive director of the National Alliance on Mental
Illness Fort Wayne.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you are aware of Corcoran's previous charge of murdering both of his parents. He was found not guilty due to lack of evidence. They never found the murder weapon which was his dad's shotgun and he was alone in the house and there were no witness's to the murders. He got on the school bus and calmly went to school. He was 17 years old then and 5 years later he kills 4 people for no apparent reason. He had 30 guns in the house at the time of his arrest. He also had earlier applied for a license to carry a machine gun but was denied because he didn't have a good enough reason to have one. He may have wanted to do a McDonalds style mass killing, who knows? Another thing comes to mind, did he wait 5 years to kill again or did he kill others we don't know about. Ted Bundy murdered about 40 people over several years and I know he didn't wait 5 years between killings. Corcoran could have driven around picking up hitch hikers and leaving their bodies scattered who knows where. If he got away with killing his parents when he was the only other person living there how much easier to get away with murder at random? Before his parents were killed he had talked at school about it and tried to find someone willing to kill them. Not one was willing so he did it himself. He still walked. What if someone broke into your house and he was upstairs shooting your 4 children, you hear the shots and you have a gun. You run upstairs with your gun and you shoot him even though your children are now dead. Would the shooting be justified? I don't think any court in the world would say you were not justified in taking his life. Here is your other hear gunshots upstairs as he murders your 4 children. You have a gun but you decide to run next door and call a head doctor to help this poor man who's killing your children. Let's suppose you go with the first option, you run upstais and shoot him and you would be justified to do so. You shot him for murdering you children just one minute after the fact. Now the courts are feeling justified by law to excute him 11 years later so I see no difference as only time has passed, not the crime. But acutally I agree with you, let's Don't excecute him let him live for the next 50 years. his hell that goes on in his mind day after day, night after night. People kill themselves over anxiety as it is the most horrible state of mind you can be in. It's mental torture so much horrible than death itself, that's why they do it. Why do you think Corcoran wants to die? By keeping him alive you cause him to suffer even more and for the rest of his life while he's awake. Can you amagine how his dreams must be? Yes I agree with you let's abolish the death penalty. We all die at some time anyway so let's keep him alive for as long as we can so he suffers. Then when he does die he'd better pray there ain't no hell. I had a son once who was very close to me, we were pals and hung out together all the time even in his 30's. He was supposed to come visit me at 9pm on July 26, 1997. At 7pm he was shot in the face by Joe Corcoran. The next time I saw him was in a body bag at the funeral home. My son always invited me to party's even when he was a teenager and he would introduce me to his friends. He always had a big smile on his face when he did this like he was proud that I was his dad. He died leaving 3 children. I still dream about him at least a dozen time every year. I'ts never a bad dream, we're always laughing and kidding like we always did. Then I wake up and it seems so real it seems like he was back with me for a few minutes. Then of course I remember and it starts all over again. Closure? There's no such thing, closure would mean he was just injured and he's back with me. I have prayed for Joe Corcoran many times since then. I hope he finds God through Christ but I'll bet he's not even looking.