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February 10, 2005

Post-Atkins capital sentencing procedure

Thanks to Howard Bashman at How Appealing, I see that the California Supreme Court has issued this interesting opinion in In re Hawthorne, S116670 (Cal. Feb. 10, 2005), addressing the procedures for sorting through a capital defendant's claim he is mentally retarded and therefore, due to the decision in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), no longer subject to execution.  In Atkins, the Supreme Court declared that the Eighth Amendment no longer permitted the execution of persons suffering from MR, but ever so thoughtfully left to the states "the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon its execution of sentences."

Hawthorne explains that California passed Atkins legislation for pre-conviction proceedings, but left the courts with the task of determining how to resolve post-conviction claims of mental retardation.  The decision is somewhat technical, but an interesting read for its coverage of how various states have being sorting through the myriad procedural issues that the Supreme Court punted to the states in Atkins.  (There is, I believe, no truth to the rumor that the Supreme Court is waiting for a petitioner named "South Beach" to take these issues up again.)

February 10, 2005 at 03:50 PM | Permalink


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Not quite sure if you're aware, but Atkins himself is now said to be competent, having recently tested an IQ of 76.

Posted by: Three Generations | Feb 11, 2005 3:27:41 PM

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