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Opening Arguments

Mind of a killer

"I believe the death penalty is a just punishment for four counts of murder." That's not the police or prosecution calling for the execution of the murderer Joseph Corcoran. That's Joseph Corcoran speaking, being quoted by the appeals court that just put the death penalty back on the table in his case (pdf of the court's decision). The issue was whether Corcorcon, a paranoid schizophrenic, was competent when he waived further review of his case (which would hasten his execution) or whether he was trying to relieve the pain he believed he was experiencing as a result of his delusions. The precedent the courts go by is not just whether someone suffers from mental illness. Rather:

The question . . . is whether a mental illness substantially affects the capacity to appreciate his options and make a rational choice among them.

 [. . .]

Our review of the transcripts and the evidence before the Indiana Supreme Court reveals that it (as well as the two other courts that considered Corcoran's competency) thoroughly and conscientiously examined Corcoran's claims of incompetency, and its findings that he had a rational understanding of and [could] appreciate his legal position" are factually supported by the record.

This is a case "reasonable people can disagree on." It seems cruel and unusual to execute people for things they have no control over. Paranoid schizophrenics are no more responsible for their condition that people with epileptic seizures. But most paranoid schizophrenics don't kill people. Isn't it reasonable to assume that there are those with killer instincts among paranoid schizophrenics just as there are among the general population?

It's not a question of whether Corcoran should be in custody for the rest of his life -- he's an extremely dangerous man who should never see the light of day again? But to kill him