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Death Penalty and Mental Illness: Families of Victims Speak out at National Convention; 'Double Tragedies' Report Released
Date:7/6/2009

SAN FRANCISCO, July 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For the first time, families of murder victims have joined with families of persons with mental illness who have been executed to speak out against the death penalty.

Double Tragedies, a report being released today at a special session on the first day of the annual convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), calls the death penalty "inappropriate and unwarranted" for people with severe mental disorders and "a distraction from problems within the mental health system that contributed or even directly led to tragic violence."

The report calls for treatment and prevention, not execution. It is available online at www./nami.org/doubletragedies.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in cases involving defendants with mental retardation (Atkins v. Virginia, 2002) and juvenile defendants (Roper v. Simmons 2005).

The report, a joint project of NAMI and Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), is based on extensive interviews with 21 family members from 10 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

"Family opposition to the death penalty is grounded in personal tragedy," said MVFHR executive director Renny Cushing. "In the public debate about the death penalty and how to respond in the aftermath of violent crime, these are the voices that need to be heard."

"Most people with mental illness are not violent," said NAMI executive director Mike Fitzpatrick. "When violent tragedies occur they are exceptional -- because something has gone terribly wrong, usually in the mental health care system. Tragedies are compounded and all our families suffer."


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SOURCE National Alliance on Mental Illness
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