Jewish World Review July 10, 2001 / 19 Tamuz, 5761

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

The dumb and the dead -- I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that a California bill banning the execution of mentally retarded people has been shelved.

According to the story, the Democrats in the state Assembly fear what is called "political fallout"-- I guess from those voters who want to kill mentally retarded people, a much-coveted constituency, apparently.

A similar bill was vetoed in Texas, while Governor Jeb Bush made Florida the 15th state to spare the mentally retarded from the death penalty.

Now, I would think that criminals would already be considered, in the drawer of humanity not the sharpest knives, and convicted killers, in the chandelier of life, the dimmest bulbs of all.

The Chronicle informed me that the "mentally retarded are...regarded as people having an IQ of less than 70 and a mental age of no more than 12." So how does this work? Along with a last meal, do we offer IQ tests on death row?

I'm not a fan of the death penalty, but not killing somebody because he's a couple fries short of a Happy Meal doesn't make much sense to me. If he was a rocket scientist, he'd be tracking neutrinos, day trading, or finding the next Britney Spears, not knocking over convenience stores.

In a parallel argument, the Chronicle informed me that some "advocates for the developmentally disabled have opposed an execution ban, saying special treatment in court contradicts efforts in other areas to allow the disabled more power over their lives." Huh?

In other words, if a developmentally disabled person gets a job in a convenience store, thus getting more power in his life, and is then killed by a developmentally disabled person, who is then convicted of the crime and executed, they're both winners.

And so are the people of California, even though the people in charge themselves seem to be a crouton short of a Caesar, if you know what I mean.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Ian Shoales