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December 28, 2005

Pennsylvania court establishes standard for applying Atkins

As detailed in this article, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday "set standards by which murder defendants can prove they are mentally retarded and avoid the death penalty, but the high court also urged the General Assembly to act on its own."  These standards were announced in Commonwealth v. Miller, No. 399 (Pa. Dec. 27, 2005) (available here).  Miller is a nuanced and intricate opinion, and it includes this notable dodge:

We need not reach the question of whether a mental retardation claim is to be resolved by a judge or jury at trial, since the case before us involves the proper procedure for resolution of an Atkins claim on collateral review.

December 28, 2005 at 10:14 PM | Permalink


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And remember, earlier this year the Supreme Court reversed a Ninth Circuit order requiring an Arizona court to resolve an Atkins claim at a jury trial. See Schriro v. Smith, 126 S. Ct. 7 (2005) (per curiam).

Posted by: keith | Dec 29, 2005 10:55:11 AM

That's right, Keith. It will be interesting to see if and when SCOTUS will take up another case to resolve all the procedural questions Atkins left behind.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 29, 2005 12:06:01 PM

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