Making Executions More Costly and Less Common

The Supreme Court considers requiring a hearing to determine a criminal's mental capacity before applying the death penalty.

Will the justices add another death-penalty hurdle?

Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom says that executing a person of reduced mental capacity is cruel and unusual punishment. On Monday, it took up the question of whether a convicted defendant should get a separate hearing, apart from the death penalty determination, to ascertain what the court still calls mental retardation. Under the surface, however, the case is really about something else: As the Supreme Court chips away at the death penalty, should it multiply procedural hurdles to make it harder and harder to administer?

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