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September 9, 2013

California killer claiming autism supports Atkins claim to preclude execution

This article from San Jose Mercury News reports on a notable effort by a killer on death row to raise a unique argument as part of an Atkins Eighth Amendment claim to prevent his execution.  This piece is headlined "California death penalty and mental retardation: Condemned killer seeks reprieve," and here are excerpts:

More than six years ago, it appeared that condemned Santa Clara County killer David Allen Raley had run out of legal options to avoid execution. After two decades of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court had rejected Raley's seemingly final challenge to his 1988 death sentence for murdering a Peninsula teenager and attempting to murder her high school friend.

But as is often the case for California's death row inmates, Raley's legal odyssey is far from over. Armed with a new order from the California Supreme Court, Raley has revived his appeals with a claim that he was mentally retarded at the time of his 1985 crime -- a finding that would spare him from execution under a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

On Monday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Linda Clark will start a special two-week hearing in Raley's case, which among other evidence has raised the unique claim that he is autistic and therefore falls under the legal protections against executing the mentally retarded. Clark will issue a recommendation to the state Supreme Court, which will make a final decision on Raley's fate.

In the meantime, Raley's legal team argues the 51-year-old death row inmate should spend the rest of his life in prison for the 1985 murder of Jeanine Grinsell and the attempted murder of her close friend, Laurie McKenna, inside a deserted Hillsborough mansion. "It is very true that David Raley is significantly developmentally disabled," said Robert Bacon, one of Raley's lawyers....

In court papers submitted to Clark, prosecutors branded Raley's argument a belated legal Hail Mary to avoid lethal injection and scoffed at the suggestion he is mentally disabled, noting his IQ tests were never below the standard threshold for mental retardation. "(Raley) acted alone in committing these horrible crimes and the facts elicited at trial show evidence of premeditation, cunning and problem solving, all characteristics inconsistent with a diagnosis of intellectual disability," prosecutors wrote.

Raley's case is part of an increasingly common legal battle unfolding in recent years in California and other death penalty states, the result of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded. The high court left it to the states to sort out which death row inmates or defendants facing capital murder charges may fall under the murky definition of mental retardation, forcing courts to grapple with evaluating whether there is clear proof of the disability before the age of 18.

The California Supreme Court has issued orders in dozens of cases like Raley's in which death row inmates have made the claim, often decades after a crime and death sentence. These include Bay Area condemned killers Walter Cook, from San Mateo County, and Robert Young and Delaney Marks, sent to death row from Alameda County. Courts have also spared some murderers from the death penalty at trial, including convicted San Jose cop killer DeShawn Campbell, who was found to be mentally retarded and sent to prison for life....

Death penalty supporters say claims such as Raley's are contributing to the legal morass. "The fuzziness in the definition of retardation" has given death row inmates another avenue to contest their sentences, "even though generally meritless" said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

But Raley's supporters say his case is an example of the state spending too much time and money on the death penalty. The American Civil Liberties Union cites his mental disability and costly appeals as reason to abandon capital punishment. "He's not the worst of the worst," Bacon added. "The interests of public safety could be served with life in prison without the possibility of parole."

September 9, 2013 at 07:58 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Surely. I think the brain disorder of autism is reasonable grounds to nullify a death sentence. {autismspeaks.org}

Can an autistic person ever really have intended to commit murder? knowingly? coherently?
Could he really plan it like a mastermind, with sufficient understanding of the gravity & wrongness of the act?
If the autism fits, acquit!

Bibpolar is a disorder,
manic depression is a mania, right?
We mustn't hold as fully responsible, such an one who suffers from a brain or mental disorder!
Whatever it takes to thwart retributionism. Stop the state madness . . I mean, honour the madness!

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 9, 2013 12:21:48 PM

@Adamakis

Can an autistic person ever really have intended to commit murder? knowingly? coherently?

It depends of the gravity of the trouble.
* If "high-functionning" the person can form such intention and is able to conform himself to the society's rules and should be treated and punished as such.
* If "low-functionning" then the person couldn't even be held guilty of any crime for idiocy or insanity.

Posted by: visitor | Sep 9, 2013 1:56:58 PM

Claims of factual innocence are out. Claims that the cops beat it out of me are out. Claims that it was a false confession are (mostly) out.

Claims designed to support fabricated mental state defenses are very much in.

It is not art or poetry, but the work of defense counsel in capital cases, that is the most florid showcase for the human imagination.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 9, 2013 2:55:15 PM

Background:
"Raley, a .. 23-year-old private security guard"
"After giving the girls a tour of the mansion, Raley used a ruse to lure them into a vault,
claiming he heard police dogs. He told Laurie McKenna,17, and Jeanine Grinsell, 16,
they'd be in trouble if police caught thme inside the mansion."

"There isn't much dispute about what happened over the next 12 hours.
Raley confirmed most of the disturbing details when he was arrested."

Crimes:
"He was convicted of 1st-degree Murder in the death of Jeanine Grinsell on February 2, 1985 in San Mateo County.
The jury also found Raley guilty of Attempted Murder of a second girl .. [Raley] stabbed both girls dozens of times,
then locked them in the trunk
of his car and went home to play Monopoly with his family."

"..facts elicited at trial show evidence of premeditation, cunning and problem solving.."
"proceeding to sexually assault and torture them, ultimately binding them and leaving them for dead in a ravine."

"craving water..dumped [down] a a steep ravine..[crawling] in a cold creekbed .. her hands and wrists required surgery..
her finger was [permanently] mangled."
"Grinsell wasn't so lucky. She died on an operating table in the emergency room."

Ungodly excuse-making/justifying the wicked/undoing American justice:
"Just one aspect of the waiting bothers her. Raley's lawyers have tried to forestall execution with..
[t]he jury never heard enough about his troubled, tortured childhood..."It doesn't make sense [says McKenna]."

"But Raley's supporters say his case is an example of the state spending too much time and money
on the death penalty. The ACLU cites his mental disability and costly appeals ..
"He's not the worst of the worst," said Robert Bacon, one of Raley's lawyers.

"More than six years ago, it appeared that condemned Santa Clara County killer David Allen Raley
had run out of legal options to avoid execution. After two decades of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court
had rejected Raley's seemingly final challenge to his 1988 death sentence."

-- Free Lance-Star (Fredricksburg) 10/8/06, sfist.com/2012/05/31, mercurynews.com

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 10, 2013 10:54:23 AM

Is this the same person who back in 1985 tried to gain acquittal by saying he was driven to kill by an AC/DC song? My facts are fuzzy here. However, I have just published a novel about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome who carries out a school shooting because of the bullying he suffers. Although set in New Jersey, I never considered using the boy's condition as a legal defence. I'm wondering if I got that bit wrong.

Posted by: 80smetalman | Sep 10, 2013 11:08:53 AM

Wouldn't it be nice if officials could be driven to speedily execute a convicted murderer by simple professionalism?
70% of Americans would think so. The jury would probably think so.

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 10, 2013 11:17:28 AM

The ACLU citing "costly appeals as reason to abandon capital punishment" is rich, brother; rich indeed.

I think when Tanya Harding arranged to have Nancy Kerrigan's legs smashed, she did not have such gall to suggest that Kerrigan's skating career should be abandoned, due to battered gams.

Blinding Chutzpah, ACLU!

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 10, 2013 11:27:14 AM

Autism features poor social skills. The word, "luring," in any case rules it out.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 11, 2013 2:02:12 AM

Dustin Hoffman deservedly won an Academy Award for his depiction of autism in "Rainman." That was the most accurate depiction of a mental condition in movie history.

Anyone claiming such a diagnosis should have had that presentation from infancy. I could see the character of Dustin Hoffman killing someone, perhaps for cutting his fish sticks the wrong way. When he took dancing lessons from a beautiful woman, she was like a stick of wood to him. No relatedness. No sex feeling.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 11, 2013 2:09:50 AM

SC:: "I could see the character of Dustin Hoffman killing someone, perhaps for cutting his fish sticks the wrong way…a beautiful woman, she was like a stick of wood to him…No sex feeling "

Then he won't feel it when he's rightly executed.

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 11, 2013 11:16:56 AM

The execution will benefit the public. His awareness or reaction has no importance or meaning whatsoever.

Posted by: Suptemacy Claus | Sep 12, 2013 3:09:43 PM

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