Two Stories About Mental Health and Criminal Justice

In Seattle, a pregnant woman with mental health issues was shot and killed by police after calling to report an attempted burglary, then “displaying” a knife when the police arrived.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Supreme Court  agreed with a convicted murderer held on Alabama’s death row for three decades who argued he was entitled to an expert independent from prosecutors to gauge his mental health and possibly help him avoid execution.

The justices ruled 5-4 in favor of inmate James McWilliams, who was convicted of the 1984 rape and murder of a convenience store clerk in Tuscaloosa. It is the third recent case in which the Court has ruled in favor of a convicted inmate on death row, all involving African-Americans, a fact that civil rights advocates say points to problems in America’s criminal justice system that disproportionately affect minorities.

 

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