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December 14, 2012

Overruling trial court, split Mississippi Supreme Court reverses death sentence on Atkins claim

As reported in this local article, which is headlined "Death penalty thrown out for mentally disabled man," yesterday brought a notable capital ruling from the Mississippi Supreme Court.  Here are the details:

The Mississippi Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentence of Howard Dean Goodin on grounds that he’s mentally disabled. Goodin, now 58, was sentenced to death in the November 1998 robbery and fatal shooting of Union store owner Willis Rigdon.

The court ruled Thursday that a “preponderance of the evidence” shows Goodin is mentally disabled.  The justices returned the case to Newton County Circuit Court for resentencing....  “We find the trial court’s conclusion that Goodin is not mentally retarded to be clearly erroneous,” Presiding Justice George C. Carlson Jr. wrote in the court’s opinion.

Three justices weren’t convinced.  Justice David Chandler, writing the dissenting opinion, said “Goodin’s crime, in which he calculated and executed a robbery of a store and restaurant, provides facts that belie his claim of mental retardation.”...

Court records say Goodin had been in and out of prison and detention centers since his teens and had been free for five months when he was arrested for the armed robbery and murder of the 64-year-old Rigdon....  Goodin’s lawyer, Teresa L. Norris, argued before the Supreme Court in October that testing over 40 years showed Goodin to be mentally disabled.  Norris has said Goodin has taken five IQ tests and never had a high score.

Though I do not following state court litigation over Atkins claims too closely, I feel confident asserting that it is pretty unusual for a state appellate court to rule that a trial court erred when concluding that a defendant was not mentally retarded.  The full opinion of the Mississippi Supreme Court in this matter is available at this link, and I cannot help but wonder if the prospect of a inevitable federal capital habeas action (and reversal even in the Fifth Circuit?) helped prod a majority of Mississippi Justices to rule here in the defendant's favor.

December 14, 2012 at 09:14 AM | Permalink

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"”[the] crime, in which he calculated and executed a robbery of a store and restaurant, provides facts that belie his claim of mental retardation.”...
----====----But----====----
"a “preponderance of the evidence” shows Goodin is mentally disabled."

'Tis too bad for the VICTIM that Goodwin had not been sufficiently *physically* disabled;
nevertheless, due to the fact that he is not so bright, neither a judge, a jury, nor an
unimpeachable process may be allowed to deliver him the justice that a brighter individual may suffer.

To wit, murderer Goodwin's ' ' mental disability ' '
effectively permits him to ' ''physically disable" '
a victim with ultimate finality (MURDER), without facing the legal sanction afforded to those who do such horror.

Illogical or immoral to any progressive? Me thinks not.

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 14, 2012 9:36:17 AM

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