Friday, June 5, 2009

Man Who Led To Ban On Executing Menatally Retarded Sentenced to Life

In 2002, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded. Yesterday, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the man who was the subject of that case is to spend the rest of his life in prison. In 1996, Daryl Atkins abducted an Air Force mechanic in front of a Virginia convenience store at gunpoint, forced him to withdraw money from an ATM machine, drove him to an isolated area and shot him 8 times. A co-defendant, who is already serving life in prison, testified that Atkins pulled the trigger. After Atkins victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, a jury found that he was not mentally retarded and reimposed the death sentence. The Virginia Supreme Court then overturned that decision and ordered another hearing to determine whether he was mentally retarded. During that hearing, the judge heard evidence that had previously not been made known to Atkins' attorneys casting doubt on his guilt. In response, the judge sentenced Atkins to life in prison. Prosecutors appealed the decision of the judge claiming that the sole purpose of the hearing was to determine whether Atkins was mentally retarded and that the judge had no authority to overturn the death sentence for any other reason. The Supreme Court of Virginia disagreed with the prosecutors and upheld the judge's decision.

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