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Mentally Impaired Offenders Extra Credit

Mentally Impaired Offenders



 Most of these are worth 100 pts or more, depending on the quality of your work.

1.  Read any of the legal opinions (case law) named in the Syllabus.  Write a description of the holding of the case.  Explain  the effect of this holding on the criminal justice system.


Some of the more important U.S. Supreme Court cases are:

Clark v. Arizona, 548 U.S. 735 (2006) (Arizona’s Guilty Except Insane verdict)

Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003) (forced medication of defendant who is incompetent to stand trial)

Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) (death penalty and mentally retarded persons)

Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71 (1992) (circumstances under which persons found not guilty by reason of insanity may be confined in mental institution)

Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986) (death penalty and insane persons)

2.   Read one of the many first-hand accounts of mental illness.   Some of these are on the Syllabus.  Others may be found in internet or library searches. Write a book report describing what you have learned from the book and how it applies to problems of mentally ill offenders.   Examples of questions:

Does the book describe an experience of a person who was treated in a mental hospital?  What would have happened to this person if no hospital were available?

3: Watch the movie,  Suddenly, Last Summer.  Write a report from the mental health point of view.  What is Katherine Hepburn trying to do to Elizabeth Taylor?  What is Elizabeth Taylor is afraid the psychiatrist will do to her in the mental hospital?  What was the status of mental health treatment in the U.S. at the time this movie was made?  How is the mental hospital portrayed in the movie?

4: Watch the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Write a report from the mental health point of view.  What is the scary thing that might happen to Jack Nicholson in the mental hospital?  How is the mental hospital portrayed?

5:  Watch any one of the movies on the Syllabus list.  Write a report from the point of view of  our course topic:  mentally impaired persons and the criminal justice system.

What kind of mental impairment(s) are depicted in the movie.  Describe.

Are there any scenes in the movie where the mentally impaired person had a contact with law enforcement and/or was in jail or prison.  Describe.  Do you agree with how the police officers handled the situation?  What are the conditions in the jail or prison?  What is the effect upon the mentally impaired person?

Are there any scenes in the movie where the mentally impaired person has contact with the mental health or other health care system (psychiatrist, other doctor, counselor, mental hospital,  other hospital, residential care center, etc.).   Describe.

6: Are there any television series that deal with issues of mental illness?  Or that even touch upon them?  Name and describe these series, if any.  How does each one handle the issues of mental illness?

7: Are there any movies not listed on the Syllabus that deal with issues of mental illness?  Name and describe them, if any.  How does each one handle the issue of mental illness?

8: If you know a law enforcement officer or detention officer,  interview them about their experiences with mentally ill persons.   With their permission (you may omit names for privacy), describe the experiences and how the officer handled each encounter.

10:   Presentation for class on topic of your research report – 20 minutes length.

11:   Observe a Superior Court morning calendar.   These start at 8:30 am on Tues, Weds, Thursday and Friday at the Yuma County Justice Center, 250 W. 2nd St.  (Secuity prohibits cell phones, cameras and recording devices in the building & there is a dress code for court – no shorts, extremely short skirts or blouses/shirts with navel showing).

Divisions I and 4 have calendar on Tuesday and Thursday

Divisions 2 and 3 have calendar on Weds and Friday

Write a description of what you observed.

If you were a mentally impaired defendant, or even a defendant of normal mental capacity,  or a crime victim, do you think you would understand what is going on?

What are some aspects of the court process that would make it hard for you to understand what is happening?

Do you understand the vocabulary being used by the Judge and attorneys?  What are some of the words you did not know?

On average,  how long does a case take in front of the Judge?

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