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Fetal alcohol syndrome and the law

July 21, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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 The state of Texas’s execution last week of a 33-year-old man convicted of murder in a 1998 carjacking has called attention to a debate over whether fetal alcohol syndrome should be considered a mitigating factor in sentencing for capital crimes.

Investigation into Yokamon Hearn’s life history had revealed evidence of significant parental impairment and neglect, and signs of brain damage. Hearn’s attorneys and others opposing his execution had pinned their hopes on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling that executing a person with mental retardation violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The case of Hearn even generated a written communication from the United Nations urging that authorities reconsider Hearn’s death sentence.

Prosecutors and crime victims’ advocates argue in cases such as Hearn’s that considering fetal alcohol syndrome as a factor reducing an offender’s culpability amounts to giving license for criminal behavior to anyone whose parent drank.

What is your opinion on whether fetal alcohol syndrome should be considered in such matters?  




Absolutely. I'm as conservative politically as they come. I have a 15 y/o son (adopted) who is diagnosed with autism and MR as well as FASD. So many people have yet to understanding the significant behavior problems of such overlapping diagnoses. I'm hoping the DSM5 revisions will at least get people to start addressing the issue.

What a ridiculous statement. FASD is a preventable cause of what can be a mental and emotional and physical uncureable lifelong handicap/curse. For many the mother has never been able to be truthful about her alcohol use during pregnancy. This compounds issues as lack of special basic needs for FASD persons are not met. Can you see the snowball effect? Each case is unique. It is likely that Hearn struggled with 'thinking errors' that resulted in other horrible conseqences through his life. YES! Show mercy. It is likely many, many folks in our prisons are FASD.
Robin Bowman, BS CDP Washington State

Gary Enos


Gary Enos


Gary A. Enos has been the editor of Addiction Professional since its inception. He also...

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