Steven J. Huff


In Ford v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of an insane inmate. In answering this query, the Court created a constitutional right not to be executed while incompetent. However, the Ford decision is not only important for its creation of a "new" constitutional right, it also has the potential of nullifying several state statutes in regards to the due process requirements of hearings addressing the issue of insanity at the time of execution. The Ford decision also requires that a new test of sanity be created the test of whether one is competent enough to suffer death. The test for sanity in order to be executed, according to Ford, will be a less rigid standard than the previously mentioned two. The Ford ruling on insanity goes to the core of the death penalty's justification, and will also act in the long term to restrict the exercise of capital punishment by the states. This new standard will require additional state statutes to efficiently comply with the Ford decision. The purpose of this work is to propose the type of pre-hearing procedure necessary to determine whether the insanity claim has merit, the test needed to declare one sane enough to suffer death, and the type of statute needed to constitutionally carry out the test by the use of a hearing.