Condemned killer Sedrice Maurice Simpson moved off Arkansas’ death row after 11 years Thursday after a federal judge commuted his death sentence.
The state had agreed with Simpson’s lawyers that he was mentally retarded and should not be executed.
In a two-page ruling filed Thursday, U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes accepted their joint recommendation and ordered Simpson to serve two life sentences without the possibility of parole in the 1997 shotgun slayings of grocery clerks Wendy Pennington and Lena Sue Garner in Dallas County.
“He’s no longer on death row status,” state prison spokeswoman Dina Tyler said Thursday, though she said Simpson will remain at the Varner Supermax Unit near Grady for the time being.
Simpson was convicted of two counts of capital murder in 1998. In 2007, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted him a new hearing on his claim of mental retardation and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel hired a psychologist to test his IQ.
State law prohibits execution of inmates with an IQ below 65. Simpson’s IQ is 59, Holmes wrote in his ruling.
You would think that a man with an IQ like that would come to the attention of the courts long before spending 11 years on Death Row. That kind of mental retardation shows. Did the judge and the jury who convicted him just ignore it? Is this another case of incompetent legal defense?
In any case, this marks a major victory for the Abolition of the Death Penalty movement. Needless to say, I personally consider severe mental retardation a mitigating factor. What's your opinion? If a person commits a crime, does it not matter how smart he is? Is it possible to have a low IQ and still understand the difference between right and wrong? I say, if the answer to that is "yes," then punishment is indeed appropriate, but not death.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.