Atkins v. Virginia

The Background: Atkins V. Virginia 

The case of Atkins V. Virginia starts off with a man named Daryl Renard Atkins and his friend. These two men were convicted of robbing and murdering a man. When Mr. Atkins and his friend told the police about what happened, they gave two different stories. The mix-up was primarily due to the fact that Mr. Atkins was handicapped; his brain did not properly work. The presiding jury over the original Atkins V. Virginia case sentenced Mr. Atkins to death. The jury accepted his friend’s testimony as truth and thought that Mr. Atkins was lying. 

The Case: Atkins V. Virginia 

The case of Atkins v. Virginia dealt with administrative law. This legal field regulates the due process clause which refers to the government’s obligation to maintain and respect the legal rights of American citizens in the event they are arrested. All governments in the United States are required, by law, to protect and preserve a citizen’s human liberties and rights. This means that the government is required to treat all arrested citizens fairly. 

Mr. Atkins appealed the death sentence. His lawyer said that the execution of an individual who is medically determined to be handicapped was a direct violation of Mr. Atkins’ 8th Amendment rights. This constitutional amendment states that the government may not punish an individual in a cruel or unusual manner. Mr. Atkins’s lawyer thought the government should not be allowed to sentence Mr. Atkins to death because he was mentally challenged. 

The Ruling: Atkins V. Virginia 

In Atkins V. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the execution of any person who is mentally handicapped or challenged was a direct violation of the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Not only did the Supreme Court not allow Mr. Atkins to be put to death, but they also overturned the case. The Supreme Court instead put both Mr. Atkins and his friend in jail for the remainder of their lives. 

The court ruling in Atkins V. Virginia was reversed because the 8th amendment addresses criminal procedure; the amendment does not allow any actions that are considered cruel and unusual with regards to prosecuting a citizen. 

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