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U.S. Supreme Court

Lawyer for Death-Row Inmate Faces Skeptical Justices

Posted Apr 28, 2009 1:19 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A lawyer for a death-row inmate with an IQ of 69 told the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday that his client’s sentence should be vacated because of a 2002 decision barring the execution of mentally retarded people.

But the lawyer for inmate Michael Bies appeared to have a difficult time with that argument, the New York Times reports. “It does not bode well for a death-row inmate when his lawyer must spend the bulk of a Supreme Court argument fending off combative questions from two of the court’s most liberal justices,” the story says.

At issue in the case, Bobby v. Bies, is whether double jeopardy bars a new hearing into Bies’ mental retardation, SCOTUSblog reports.

Lawyer John Blume argued that mental retardation had been established at his client’s trial in 1992. Prosecutors, on the other hand, say they deserve a new chance to establish Bies is not retarded within the guidelines established by the 2002 Supreme Court decision, Atkins v. Virginia.

Among the justices who appeared to side with prosecutors were Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter, the story says. Ginsburg said prosecutors had little incentive to litigate the issue before the Atkins ruling.

Bies was convicted of murdering a 10-year-old boy, according to the Crime and Courts blog of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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