Can a Prisoner's Lack of Mental Capacity to Understand the Fact of the Pending Execution Be a Deterrence Aspect of Capital Punishment ?
In Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302, 106 L. Ed. 2d 256, 109 S. Ct. 2934 (1989), a majority of the Court subsequently agreed with the minimal standard articulated by Justice Powell. See id. at 333 (stating that defendants who are "unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it" cannot be executed) (quoting Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. at 422 (Powell, J., concurring)).
In Martin v. Dugger, 686 F. Supp. 1523, 1569 (S.D. Fla. 1988), Judge King offered additional guidance:
Similar to the retributive purpose analysis, the execution of a prisoner without an appreciation of the connection between his crime and punishment would be a disservice to the deterrence aspect of capital punishment.
The essence of this deterrence purpose is the rational concept that if you do this act society considers heinous you will be killed; that is, society will make you an example to others so that their acts conform to the accepted standards of humanity.
The execution of a person who cannot appreciate the connection between his crime and punishment would be tantamount to an act of inhumanity. . . .
If both purposes behind the death penalty are to be served, and, therefore, the sentence is to be carried out in accordance with the eighth amendment, the defendant must at least appreciate the connection between his crime and punishment 686 F. Supp. at 1570.
Florida has adopted the Eighth Amendment standard announced by Justice Powell in Ford. See rule 3.812(b) ("whether the prisoner lacks the mental capacity to understand the fact of the pending execution and the reason for it").