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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ind. Courts - Federal Judge "asked to clarify Indiana's definition of retardation"

Dave Stephens, reporting for the South Bend Tribune, wrote in a story dated Friday, Sept. 14th that begins:

SOUTH BEND — How Indiana determines if someone is mentally retarded was at the center of a debate today for a man sentenced to die for shooting a police officer in 2001.

In 2009, the Indiana Supreme Court rejected an appeal that claimed Tom Pruitt — who mortally wounded Morgan County Deputy Dan Starnes during a shootout following a traffic stop — was mentally retarded and could not be executed.

Pruitt, now age 50, was convicted in 2003 of murder and sentenced to death, even though his attorneys have long argued he was not eligible to receive the death penalty because of his diminished mental capacity.

In 2001, in Atkins vs. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing criminals who are mentally retarded was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s provision against cruel and unusual punishment. But the ruling left it up to each state to define what constitutes mental retardation.

On Friday, attorneys representing Pruitt and the Indiana attorney general’s office appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Miller Jr., where they presented oral arguments in Pruitt’s appeal that still basically hinges on one question — is he mentally retarded?

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 15, 2012 07:23 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts