Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PA Supreme Court affirms removal from death row

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's decision to remove a man from death row because he is mentally challenged, according to UPI.

Connie Williams of Pittsburgh received the death penalty from an Allegheny County jury in 2002 for the 1999 first-degree murder of his wife Frances Williams. Williams stabbed his wife in the chest during an argument, then cut off her head, hands and feet.

In April 2010, a judge took Williams, who faced execution by lethal injection, off death row after his lawyers argued the death penalty amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Prosecutors appealed the court's action.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Tuesday justices on the supreme court found no errors in the lower court's judgment. They affirmed the decision in light of five prominent physicians' testimony that Williams had poor mental function and an IQ of between 70 and 75.

Public defender Lisa Middleman, Williams' lawyer during the sentencing phase of his trial, said her client's "lack of intellect was evident."

"The courts have determined intellectually disabled people are less culpable because they may not understand the consequences of their behavior much the same way that juveniles are seen as less culpable. We can find them guilty, we can put them in jail for the rest of their lives, but we don't kill them," said Marc Bookman, executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation in Philadelphia.

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