READ & RESPOND: Autistic Man May Evade Death Penalty Due to “Mental Disease”

By Nicole Hegewald

Neil Barrall, 29, from Illinois might not face the death penalty for murdering and raping a first-grade teacher, because of his autism. Barrall has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and is being held without bail.

Does Neil Barrall, 29, deserve the death penalty?

Should Neil Barrall be exempt from the death penalty?

In case you missed it, here’s the back story, the man hit Rita Michelle Caveletto with his Jeep while she was jogging in October 2007. The car dragged her 40 feet into the woods where he proceeded to sexually assault her. It is believed he left the scene and returned later when he sat her up to kick her and stab her in the chest and neck. Her body was found three days later. An autopsy showed that her injuries were inflicted pre-mortem.

Barrall’s attorney, Matt Vaughn, argued that his client is “unfit to stand trial due to mental disease.”

The judge ruled, “That special assistance should include appointment of a qualified person trained in dealing with persons diagnosed with Asperger’s (syndrome) to assist the defendant as needed at trial.”

Vaughn asked the court to bar the ultimate sentence by citing previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings in which the death penalty was prohibited for anyone who is cognitively impaired. The decision is to be made on Dec. 3, 2009.

In situations such as these, it is important to look at many angles. I ask you to respond to 1 or all of the following questions, pertaining to this piece. How do you feel that something like this can be handled, after-the-fact? The man is autistic, so, should there be a modified version of the court? How can occurrences such as these prevented?

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 30, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    very interesting…

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