Document Type


Publication Title

Alabama Law Review

Publication Date


Page Number





In "Atkins v. Virginia", the U.S. Supreme Court held that people with mental retardation may not be executed. z Many advocates for people with disability cheered the decision, because it provides a group of disabled people with protection from the harshest punishment imposed by our society. But other disability advocates were dismayed by "Atkins", not because they are fans of the death penalty, but because they believe that declaring disabled people ineligible for a punishment that is accorded all others denigrates disabled people as something less than human. If people with disability are to be treated equally, these dissenters suggest, they should be treated equally in all areas of the law, including capital sentencing. This brief piece explores these two views of "Atkins" more fully. My conclusion is that, while "Atkins" is neither the apotheosis nor the antithesis of anti-discrimination principles, overall "Atkins" is good for the disability rights movement and for disabled people. After describing the "Atkins" decision and its critics, I explain why those who believe "Atkins" stigmatizes people with disability are wrong.

Included in

Law Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.