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August 11, 2010

Notable Atkins capital habeas ruling from the Eighth Circuit

The Eighth Circuit has an interesting discussion of the legal issues surrounding the Supreme Court's ban on the execution of the mentally retarded in the course of reversing the dismissal of a capital habeas action. The opinion in Jackson v. Norris, No. 09-1229 (8th Cir. Aug. 11, 2010) (available ehre), gets started this way:

This is a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 brought by Alvin Jackson, an Arkansas prisoner facing execution.  Jackson’s petition, before us for the second time, asserts, as relevant here, that he is mentally retarded and, therefore, his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) (the “Atkins claim”). In his first appeal, we reversed the district court’s dismissal of the Atkins claim on the basis of procedural default. See Jackson v. Norris (Jackson I), 256 F. App’x 12 (8th Cir. 2007) (unpublished per curiam), cert. denied, 128 S. Ct. 2907 (2008).  On remand, the district court granted summary judgment to Norris, dismissing the Atkins claim on the merits, without an evidentiary hearing (an “Atkins hearing”).  Jackson appeals.  Because Jackson has made the requisite showing for an Atkins hearing, we reverse the district court’s denial of such a hearing, vacate the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Norris on the Atkins claim, and remand to the district court for an Atkins hearing.

August 11, 2010 at 11:28 AM | Permalink

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