Death Penalty

Lone N.J. Juror Can Decide Retardation

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The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a defendant may not receive a death sentence if at least one juror finds he is mentally retarded.

The court said the finding must be made in a sentencing hearing after a guilty verdict, the New York Times reports.

The court said retardation is akin to a mitigating factor, which does not need unanimous support, according to the New Jersey Law Journal.

The decision clarifies an October decision by the same court setting up a procedure for proof of mental retardation. It required the defendant to prove mental retardation by a preponderance of the evidence, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of mentally retarded inmates, but left it to states to determine how they would carry out the ruling.

The case is State v. Jimenez, No. A-75-2006 (PDF).

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