National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Supreme Court Decisions Could Limit ADA Protections

By Lenny Giltman, Legal Intern

Last year a Florida jury condemned Robert Hawk, 19, to death for the fatal bludgeoning of an elderly woman and the attempted murder of her husband. The Florida Supreme Court decided that the sentence was disproportionate considering the young defendant suffered from brain damage, mental illness, and delusional episodes and hallucination. Hawk v. Florida, 718 So.2d 159 (Fla. Sup. Ct. 1998) The Court determined that the mitigating circumstances in this case outweighed the aggravating circumstances. During the trial court's penalty phase, the court found that Hawk's could not fully appreciate the criminality of his conduct or substantially conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. The Court also considered a number of other non-statutory mitigating circumstances, including Mr. Hawk's disadvantaged and abusive childhood, brain damage, mental and emotional disturbance, loss of hearing, and lack of education and training. Many of Hawk's physical and mental disabilities stem from his bout with childhood spinal meningitis. These problems were aggravated by his ingestion of drugs and alcohol before the crime.