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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ind. Decisions - More on: Supreme Court issues order late this afternoon

Updating the ILB report of yesterday's Supreme Court order in the Norman Timberlake case, the Louisville Courier Journal's Harold J. Adams reports:

The Indiana Supreme Court yesterday set a Jan. 19 execution date for a New Albany man convicted of killing a state trooper.

Norman Timberlake, 59, was convicted in 1995 of murdering Master Trooper Michael Greene during a traffic stop on Interstate 65 north of Indianapolis on Feb. 5, 1993.

Timberlake, in his final appeal of his death sentence, asked the court for a chance to prove that he should not be executed because of insanity.

The U.S. and state constitutions prohibit the execution of a person who is insane at the time the sentence is to be carried out. Before his trial, Timberlake was determined to have been sane when he shot Greene.

The justices rejected the request for a new competency proceeding by a 3-2 vote. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Randall Shepard, said Timberlake has not shown a reasonable possibility that he can meet the court's definition of insanity.

The so-called "Ford" standard, established by the U.S. Supreme Court, says that a person is insane if he or she is "unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it." * * *

Justice Robert Rucker joined a dissenting opinion written by Justice Theodore Boehm.

Timberlake is clearly sane under the Ford standard, Boehm wrote.

But he added, "I am not confident that the Ford standard will ultimately prove to be the test for eligibility to be executed consistent with the Eighth Amendment."

Boehm noted that the Ford standard "has never been squarely adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court, and subsequent decisions of that court have cast some doubt on it."

The dissent notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has since prohibited the execution of retarded people because of diminished capacities to understand and process information.

"If a person who is not mentally retarded suffers from the same 'diminished capacities,' it seems equally offensive to the Eighth Amendment to execute that person," Boehm wrote.

"There is sufficient doubt" about Timberlake's mental condition "that I would permit him to proceed" with a Marion County Superior Court proceeding to determine his eligibility for execution, Boehm wrote.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 16, 2006 09:06 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions