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Ball/Oberman Current Challenges in Criminal Law

Homicide and mental illness

In this section, we consider the case of Herbert Lee Richardson, executed in Alabama in 1989. The story of his life and his death places in stark relief the issues we have studied to date in this class. In particular, as you read the clemency petition, we invite you to reflect on the justifications for punishment, on mens rea and mental illness, and on the various governmental systems that played a role in his life, his crime, and his death. 

As you read, you might also consider the style of legal advocacy. Notice the manner in which the lawyers presented Richardson's appeal--the balance of facts and law, the way in which they told his story. What do you think of the strategies they employed? What might you have done differently?