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.