If the state is going to be in the grisly business of killing its own citizens through capital punishment, then at the very least it should reserve that punishment for the worst of the worst. Yet North Carolina does not have any law protecting the severely mentally ill from execution, despite clear evidence that serious mental illness reduces culpability.
More than 10% of the current occupants of North Carolina's death row suffer from multiple forms of severe mental illness. Their diagnoses range from paranoid schizophrenia to severe depression with psychotic features, and their life stories often include multiple suicide attempts and serious physical abuse. Their mental illness histories read like an abnormal
The Common Sense Foundation did a comprehensive study of the documented public record for all 162 of the individuals on North Carolina's death row and found at least 20 cases that featured diagnoses of at least two major psychotic or mood disorders. Many of these cases also feature suicide attempts, childhood abuse histories, and even hospitalization for mental illness.
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