USA: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS EXECUTION OF MAN WITH CHILD'S IQ
January 20, 2010: The US Supreme Court upheld a death sentence against a convicted murderer, ruling his attorney had not erred in failing to tell a jury the man had the IQ of a seven-year-old child.
In a 7-2 vote, the court said that the attorney's decision not to present the jury with a psychiatric report on the man was strategic and not "unreasonable."
The majority decision was written by Sonia Sotomayor, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.
The man, Holly Wood, convicted in 1994 by a court in Alabama of murdering a former girlfriend, was represented during his murder trial by three court-appointed attorneys, including one just out of school and with no experience on a capital case.
The young lawyer took charge of the sentencing phase of the case after Wood had been found guilty and jurors were deciding if he would get life in jail or the death penalty. Jurors picked execution by 10 to two.
The Supreme Court found that the attorney deliberately chose not to present findings about Wood's mental profile for fear it would hurt him.
Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Anthony Kennedy dissented, with Stevens writing that: "Because such a decision is the antithesis of a 'strategic' choice, I would reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals."
The Supreme Court in 2002 barred the execution of mentally retarded people. Wood's IQ of between 59 and 64 would be considered significant mental retardation, but his appeal to the court sought to dismiss his death sentence on the basis of his attorney's alleged incompetence rather than his mental disability. (Sources: Afp, 21/01/2010)