The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruling in Sasser v. Hobbs is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"Death row inmate gets hearing on mental fitness," is AP coverage, via the Russellville Courier.
A man convicted and sentenced to death in the killing and rape of a store clerk 20 years ago in Miller County won an appeal ruling Friday that could prevent him from being executed.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis overruled a district court judge and ordered that Andrew Sasser get a hearing in which he can try to show that he is mentally retarded and had ineffective counsel at his trial.
Sasser, now 49, was found guilty of capital murder for the 1993 slaying of EZ Mart clerk Jo Ann Kennedy. U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren upheld the sentence in a 2010 ruling, which the appeals court said Friday must be revisited.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that execution of mentally retarded convicts constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
An earlier ruling found Sasser was mentally fit for execution, but the appeals court opinion notes that his IQ test may have been scored improperly and that broader indications of his mental capacity weren’t taken into account.
“The district court should have considered all evidence of Sasser’s intellectual functioning rather than relying solely on his IQ test scores,” the court wrote.
Related posts are in the mental retardation category index.
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.