By William Fisher
Is it just part of the 99-1 percent formulation of post-compassion capitalism that people suffering from mental illnesses commit crimes and end up in prison are simply consigned to the landfills of decomposing humanity -- and become forgotten and invisible?
Well, Adam Smith, generally thought to be the "father" of Capitalism, never subscribed to that construct. In an era when safety nets were for sissies [ 1723-1790] Smith saw an urgent need to help the least fortunate of our citizens. He dubbed it -- and many other characteristics of capitalism -- The Invisible Hand.
Here's what Smith wrote in his "Theory of Moral Sentiments":
"Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did and never can carry us beyond our own persons, and it is by the imagination only that we form any conception of what are his sensations...His agonies, when they are thus brought home to ourselves, when we have this adopted and made them our own, begin at last to affect us, and we then tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels."
But last week the Invisible Hand wasn't working for Warren Hill or Yokamon Hearn. Both were mentally retarded. Both were executed. Despite a Supreme Court decision that the death penalty would violate the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.
In Georgia, the State Board of Pardons and Parole denied Hill's request to commute his death sentence and on the same day the US Supreme Court turned down his request for a review. Previously a trial judge had ruled that Hill was indeed mentally retarded. But the Georgia Supreme Court later said Hill failed to prove his intellectual disability "beyond a reasonable doubt." Legal experts have pointed out that this bar is so high that virtually no mentally ill person could scale it. So Georgia turned justice on its head: it is almost always the State, and not the Defense, that has to prove an inmate's deficiency.
While in prison between the age of 28 and 33, Hill tested at a grade level of approximately 6-7, and had an IQ within the range of mental retardation.