Tuesday, May 2, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court orders review of Alabama death penalty case

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 11:53 AM

APPEALING: Bruce Ward and Don Davis have pending cases that could be affected by a new U.S. Supreme Court decision.
  • APPEALING: Bruce Ward and Don Davis have pending cases that could be affected by a new U.S. Supreme Court decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a further review of an Alabama death penalty case in light of rulings that prevent execution of the intellectually disabled.

It's one of a string of death penalty cases over mental competency.

The Arkansas Supreme Court last month stayed executions of Don Davis and Bruce Ward, because of claims they hoped to make on intellectual disability. They wanted a delay to see how the U.S. Supreme Court would rule in yet another Alabama case (McWilliams) that was argued before the Supreme Court April 24.  A decision in that case is pending. But of the case of Taurus Carroll this week, EJI writes:

This is the second time in as many years that the Supreme Court has reversed the Alabama state courts because their determination of when a person's intellectual disability should preclude them from being executed failed to meet constitutional standards.
It said of the Carroll case:

In Mr. Carroll's case, the state court imposed a strict IQ cutoff of 70, concluding that Mr. Carroll is not shielded from the death penalty because he has an IQ score of 71. Like in Moore, the state courts refused to apply modern medical standards, including the five-point standard error of measurement and the Flynn effect, that place Mr. Carroll's IQ score squarely within the range of intellectual disability.

The Alabama courts also mirrored the errors committed by the Texas courts in Moore by focusing only on Mr. Carroll's perceived "adaptive strengths" without recognizing that current medical protocols require an evaluation of adaptive deficits. 

In the Arkansas cases, as in the pending McWilliams case in Alabamae, inmates argue they were denied access to independent mental health experts to testify about the lack of intellectual capacity.

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