"Simplifying mentally disabled exemption to death penalty isn't simple," is by Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service. It's via the Athens Banner-Herald.
Georgia is the toughest of any state for a murder defendant to prove a mental disability as a reason to escape the death penalty because of Jack Martin of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
“The reason, I would say, is my fault,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking clearly enough.”
Recently, he sat in a hearing room of the state House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee to recount how he had proposed in that very room in 1988 a short amendment to current law. Its passage made Georgia the first state in the nation to formally enact protections for defendants with what the law calls “mental retardation.” The U.S. Supreme Court extended the safeguard nationally 14 years later.
But as other states enacted protections in response to the top court’s ruling, they created procedures that are more friendly to disabled defendants.
Martin explained he had proposed merely adding a few words to Georgia’s law about defendants who are guilty, but mentally ill, which already had the tough standard of proof. That’s why a Georgia defendant must convince a jury during the guilt/innocence phase of the trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
Other states use pretrial hearings with the need to prove the “preponderance of the evidence” shows more likely than not that the defendant never developed full mental capability.
Indeed, one district attorney, Ocmulgee D.A. Fred Bright, has already used the lower “preponderance of the evidence” proof standard in a murder trial after winning agreement from the judge and defense attorney first.
"Georgia taking a look its law that forces mentally disabled to prove their status in death penalty cases," is by Alan Riquelmy in the Rome News-Tribune.
Georgia is the only state that requires a defendant to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is mentally disabled and should not be put to death.
Advocates for change to the law recently pleaded their case to a state House committee to lower that high threshold — a discussion state Rep. Christian Coomer said could lead to the submission of a bill to change current law.
“The real issue is, are we going to change our beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, which is the highest standard?” said Coomer, who serves on the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. “They all came and expressed their hope that we could change our standard.”
Coomer, R-Cartersville, said current law has withstood court challenges. He called the law “sufficient” but noted that laws change as society changes.
Earlier coverage from Georgia begins at the link.
As I often point out, mental retardation is now generally referred to as a developmental or intellectual disability. Because it has a specific meaning with respect to capital cases, I continue to use the older term on the website. More on Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling banning the execution of those with mental retardation, is via Oyez.