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Mississippi Death Row Prisoner Ricky Chase

Death Row Prisoner’s Mental Capacity and Constitutional Rights at Issue Before Mississippi Supreme Court

The Mississippi Supreme Court has been asked to overturn a lower court’s finding that Death Row prisoner Ricky Chase is not intellectually disabled — a lower court ruling that failed to follow a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that executing mentally retarded individuals violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, according to an appeal filed by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center.

In the landmark case of Atkins v. Virginia in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the execution of persons with intellectual disability (formerly called “mentally retarded”) would violate society’s norms and is therefore barred by the Eighth Amendment. Atkins left to the states the role of crafting procedures to ensure that intellectually disabled death-row prisoners are identified and spared from capital punishment.

Two years later, the Mississippi Supreme Court instructed the Copiah County Circuit Court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the mental capacity question in the case of Chase, who had been sentenced to death in 1990.

“After two attempts, that Circuit Court continues to ignore established scientific guidelines for determining if a person is intellectually disabled,” said Jim Craig, who represents Chase and is Co-Director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s New Orleans office. “The lower court’s decision was based on a wide variety of legal and factual errors, and our case presents an opportunity for the Mississippi courts to follow scientific criteria, rather than prejudice and stereotype, in deciding whether a prisoner is intellectually disabled.”

Craig argued the appeal in before the Mississippi Supreme Court on December 8, 2014. To view video of the oral argument GO HERE »

PDF of Brief of Appellant (3/14/14), Ricky Chase v. State of Mississippi

PDF of Brief of Appellee (6/18/14), Ricky Chase v. State of Mississippi

PDF of Appellant’s Reply Brief (8/16/14), Ricky Chase v. State of Mississippi

Miss. inmate seeks dismissal of death sentence, Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Updated - 01/02/15