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June 18, 2007

New Jersey Supreme Court clarifies Atkins procedures

in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), the Supreme Court declared that the Eighth Amendment no longer permitted the execution of persons suffering from mental retardation, but ever so thoughtfully left to the states "the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon its execution of sentences."   The sates have been all over the map on this issue, and New Jersey had an interesting follow up ruling today in State v. Jimenez, No. A-75-2006 (NJ June 18, 2007) (available here).  Here is how it starts:

We granted defendant's motion to clarify our opinion in State v. Jimenez, 188 N.J. 390 (2006) (Jimenez II), in which we adopted a framework for adjudicating Atkins claims.  We held that defendant had the burden of proving mental retardation by a preponderance of the evidence to the jury at a hearing after the guilt phase and prior to the penalty phase.  Jimenez II, supra, 188 N.J. at 408.  However, we did not express a view on whether there must be a unanimous jury finding or whether only one juror need reach that conclusion. As a consequence, defendant sought clarification of that issue.  Because the finding of mental retardation is like a dispositive mitigating factor, we hold that if a single juror finds defendant has met his burden of proving mental retardation by a preponderance of the evidence, defendant is not eligible to receive a penalty of death.

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June 18, 2007 at 04:34 PM | Permalink

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