The Eighth Amendment and the Mentally Ill on Death Row
JAN 9, 2013
8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
The Supreme Court has recently demonstrated an interest in the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment as it applies to discrete groups. In the past few years the Court has determined that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of the mentally retarded and juveniles. Even more recently the Court determined that the Eighth Amendment prohibited life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes and just this term the Court determined that mandatory LWOP for juveniles convicted of murder also violated the Eighth Amendment. These developments raise questions about applications to other groups. One area of increasing attention is the Eighth Amendment implications of executing the mentally ill.
Visiting Associate Professor
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Professor Benza received his Bachelor of Arts (1986) and law degrees (1992) from Case Western Reserve University. He also received a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology (1988) from Pepperdine University. He was the 1992 Biskind Fellow from CWRU School of Law and spent a year working for the Legal Resources Centre, a civil and human rights law firm in South Africa. Upon returning to the States, he spent four years in the Capital Defense Unit at the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. He was assistant counsel at the Cleveland Bar Association working with the Certified Grievance Committee as well as other committees. Professor Benza teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure I, Death Penalty Issues, and the Death Penalty Lab, and coached the Mock Trial team. The Student Bar Association selected Professor Benza as the Professor of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2009 Professor Benza was elected as an alumni member to the Society of Benchers.
Professor Benza continues to represent death row inmates in state courts and federal habeas proceedings. He has litigated capital cases in state trial courts, state appellate and post-conviction courts, and federal courts including arguing Smith v. Spisak before the Supreme Court of the United States.