Document Type


Publication Date

January 2016




Introduction: This symposium primarily focuses on the extraordinary legal and personal saga of one man, Joe Giarratano, his decades-long heroic struggle to overturn his death sentence and, ultimately, to obtain his release and exoneration. Prior to the conference, my only acquaintance with the Giarratano case was the decision in Murray v. Giarratanol-the U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that the Sixth Amendment right to appointed counsel does not extend to the post-conviction stages of death penalty litigation. The symposium provided a much broader perspective on the saga of Joe Giarratano, whose own legal skills parallel those of the many lawyers involved in his representation. My particular panel was one focused on mental illness and the death penalty, which, as other panelists made evident, was deeply implicated in the Giarratano case as well. My participation in the panel, however, was intended to offer a broader perspective on the issue, indeed the only international law perspective on the array of issues discussed during the symposium. This Article addresses the question of what international human rights law has to say about the death penalty in general, as well as the evolving views of the international community as to how mental illness may, or should, bar the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty.