Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Supreme Court Gets Hamilton County Death Penalty Case

Court To Determine If Disabled Standard Should Apply In 1992 Case


updated 5:50 p.m. ET, Fri., April 24, 2009

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in a 1992 murder case from Hamilton County.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray is asking the court to reverse a lower court decision that set aside the death sentence imposed on Michael Bies for his murder of a 10 year-old Cincinnati boy.

Bies and an accomplice lured Aaron Raines into an abandoned building and bludgeoned him to death. A Hamilton County jury convicted Bies of aggravated murder, attempted rape and kidnapping, and further recommended a sentence of death. The Ohio Supreme Court had affirmed the conviction and death sentence in 1996.

In a 2002 case, Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution prohibits the execution of mentally retarded defendants. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit later ordered that Bies' death sentence be set aside because the Ohio Supreme Court briefly mentioned the mental retardation issue in one of its earlier opinions.

Cordray said he maintains that the Ohio Supreme Court never determined that Bies is mentally retarded under the Atkins standards.

If Cordray prevails, the court will return the case to the Hamilton County courts, which will conduct a hearing, take evidence and issue a finding on Bies' mental capacity.

"Developmentally disabled individuals cannot be executed, period," said Cordray in an news release. "However, it is important that the proper procedures be followed to make that determination for any death row inmate. We believe the federal courts should have allowed the Ohio state courts to determine this issue anew after Atkins was decided and resulted in a major change in the law. Should we prevail, I have every confidence that Mr. Bies will receive a full and fair hearing in the Ohio courts."

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