Court voids sen­tence, cites men­tal dis­abil­ity

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - REGION -

MONT­GOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s Supreme Court on Fri­day voted 5-4 to over­turn the death sen­tence of a Birm­ing­ham man con­victed in a 2009 rob­bery and shoot­ing, in­stead di­rect­ing a Jef­fer­son County judge to sen­tence An­thony Lane to life with­out pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

The rul­ing came af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court had or­dered Alabama’s courts to re­con­sider the death sen­tence in 2015, cit­ing cases that say states can’t ex­e­cute peo­ple with men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. How­ever, even af­ter that, the Alabama Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals had reaf­firmed that Lane should get the death penalty.

The Alabama at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice con­ceded in the case that the trial court shouldn’t have sen­tenced Lane to death, fil­ing a joint mo­tion with the de­fense.

Lane con­fessed that he killed Frank Wright at a car wash, stole his wal­let and car, and then par­tially burned the car in an at­tempt to con­ceal ev­i­dence. Wright’s wal­let was found in the car.

“It is undis­puted that Lane has an IQ of 70,” As­so­ciate Jus­tice Wil­liam Sell­ers wrote for the ma­jor­ity Fri­day. “The state has never se­ri­ously ar­gued that his in­tel­lec­tual func­tion­ing is any­thing but sig­nif­i­cantly sub­av­er­age. Rather, the dis­pute has cen­tered around whether Lane also has the req­ui­site deficits in adap­tive skills nec­es­sary to ren­der him in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled.”

Sell­ers wrote that clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr. John Goff has chron­i­cled that Lane had deficits in all of those adap­tive skills as laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court. That ev­i­dence was pre­sented to the trial court and the state didn’t present its own ex­pert, but the trial judge sen­tenced Lane to death fol­low­ing a 10-2 rec­om­men­da­tion by the jury. Sell­ers wrote the judge’s rea­son­ing in sen­tenc­ing Lane didn’t fol­low the rules.

“The state has in­di­cated that it con­cedes that the ev­i­dence es­tab­lished that Lane is in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled and that the trial court sim­ply sub­sti­tuted its own stan­dards for in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity for those ac­cepted by the med­i­cal com­mu­nity,” Sell­ers wrote.

Two dis­senters said the ma­jor­ity was act­ing pre­ma­turely be­cause the state didn’t file its mo­tion in a pro­ce­du­rally proper way.

“The State may have very good rea­sons to con­cede the is­sue. Lane may very well be en­ti­tled to a judg­ment in his fa­vor. But there is a bet­ter, more pro­ce­du­rally proper way to do this,” As­so­ciate Jus­tice Greg Shaw wrote in a dis­sent.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.