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In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for defendants with intellectual disabilities. The Court held that executing individuals with intellectual disabilities is cruel and unusual punishment, violating the Eighth Amendment. The Court afforded the states the power to define intellectual disability for the purpose of death penalty eligibility. Post-Atkins cases reveal that the states have composed superficial and oversimplified definitions of intellectual disability. State definitions lack consistency and include nonclinical standards. As a result, courts continue to sentence defendants with intellectual disabilities to death. This Note argues that states should adopt a uniform definition of intellectual disability for the purpose of death penalty eligibility and proposes a model standard in line with clinical standards.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
7 Sep 2022
819 kB



  • Subject
    • Constitutional Law

    • Criminal Law

    • Disability Law

    • State and Local Government Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 63

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Pagination
    • 301

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022