Post by SoulTrainOz on Jul 12, 2006 4:31:00 GMT -5
The Louisiana Supreme Court has reinstated a law designed to determine whether 1st-degree murder defendants are mentally retarded -- and therefore exempt automatically from the death penalty.
Acting on a case from Sabine Parish, the high court, reversed Judge Stephen Beasley, who ruled that the law creates an "intolerable risk" that mentally retarded defendants could be executed in violation of a landmark U-S Supreme Court ruling.
Under the law passed in 2003, shortly after the national court ruling, a determination of retardation can be made either by a judge before a trial -- as long as prosecutors and defense attorneys agree -- or by the jury in the punishment phase if the defendant is convicted.
Beasley said the law violated the federal ruling by allowing jury involvement. He said a determination should be made solely by a judge, just as judges made the determination whether a defendant is competent to stand trial.
But the state Supreme Court majority disagreed and reinstated the law, saying that while the "interests of judicial economy" would be better served by a judge-only determination, "we can't say the Legislature's choice of permitting this issue to be submitted to the jury offends constitutional guarantees."
The rulings came in the case of 27-year-old Jimmy Turner, 1 of 4 people charged in the 2003 armed robbery and killings of a couple who were gunned down as they counted receipts in their feed store in Pleasant Hill. Turner's lawyers say he has an I-Q of about 64. An I-Q below 70 can be a sign of mental retardation.