Monday, September 28, 2009
Tomorrow, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) will be front and center in the Supreme Court. The case of Holmes v. Louisiana has raised a lot of controversy regarding FAS, and whether or not someone with the disorder should be eligible for the death penalty. "Brandy Holmes, is a 29-year-old woman with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome currently on death row in Louisiana. She and a codefendant were convicted of a 2003 murder in Louisiana. Brandy's lead attorney is noted Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree", according to the PR Newswire. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the number one preventable form of retardation in the world; there are 40,000 newborns each year just in the United States. There are more cases annually than: autism, Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, and sudden infant death syndrome - combined.
There are many states that do not execute people who suffer from mental disabilities; society believes that to be inhumane. "Thirty-three states and the Federal Government don't execute persons with mental retardation - 16 more than only ten years ago. Evolving standards of decency place Brandy's case squarely within the precedent established by the court and society with regard to intellectual disabilities and the ultimate punishment". It is clear that Brandy, a person named after her mother's favorite drink, is a convicted murderer that deserves the consideration of mitigating circumstances. "Brandy has a hallmark case of FAS. Her mother testified that she drank throughout her pregnancy, and in fact named her daughter after her favorite drink", states NOFAS President Tom Donaldson. NOFAS is the The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; they fight for the rights of those who suffer from the disorder. NOFAS is there for children, as well as adults, who seek help for the wide range of problems associated with the disorder.
The statistics are available and the evidence is clear, we cannot continue to ignore this problem. The effects that alcohol have upon a pregnancy are devastating and we can no longer ignore the truth. Brandy may have committed the act of murder, but, because of her disability she should be granted a stay of execution. There needs to be more awareness via education regarding what alcohol does to babies. Donaldson believes that there needs to be more campaigns for the cause, "It's time to stop playing Russian roulette when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy". It is the 21st century, in an era of technology and information there is no excuse for why so many children are still born with such a disadvantage.
We have discussed Fetal Alcohol Syndrome earlier this month and we will continue to follow this story. We will watch to see if the Supreme Court makes a decision to hear Brandy Holmes' case.