Monday, July 25, 2005

Executing Atkins?

Remember Atkins v. Virginia? That's the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the execution of people with severe mental retardation.

Strange thing is, even though Atkins won, the state of Virginia is still trying to execute him:

At 18, Daryl Atkins had racked up a childhood of failures. He flunked out of second grade, barely made it through 4th, and took home a heavy load of D's and F's on his report cards. By high school, a teacher decided to put the books aside to focus him on more practical skills: reading menus, understanding road signs.

This was around the time that Atkins failed driver's education and did so poorly at football practice that he was kicked off his high school team in Hampton, Va. The teenager regularly confused his right with his left and had trouble learning plays, according to a recent psychological report.

Now, a decade later, there is a fierce debate about whether these details and others demonstrate that Atkins is mentally retarded. Prosecutors argue that he is not, with one of their experts pointing out his use of such words as parab le and deja vu and his recitation of the mathematical value of pi.

At a trial that will start Monday, a jury in York County will decide the issue, knowing that a death sentence hangs in the balance. Unless Atkins is deemed retarded, he faces execution by the State of Virginia.

To read the whole story, go here.

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