New Law Doesn't Protect McCarver, Attorney Tells High Court
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 21, 2001
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion
Daily Express Email News Service.
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA--Earlier this month, Governor Mike Easley signed a
bill making North Carolina the 18th state with a death penalty that
specifically forbids executions of convicts determined to have mental
Under the new law, a defendant with an IQ of 70 or below documented before
age 18, and with "significant limitations in adaptive functioning" could be
considered to have mental retardation. This would have to be reviewed and
then decided unanimously by a jury.
And even though these new procedures would apply to capital trials beginning
on or after October 1, any current death row inmates could request a
hearing. Those considered to have mental retardati:on would have their death
sentences changed to life in prison.
That would include Ernest P. McCarver, whose execution was halted by the
U.S. Supreme Court just 6 1/2 hours before he was scheduled to die on March
1. McCarver had been convicted of stabbing to death a coworker in 1987.
The court agreed to hear arguments on McCarver's case, to decide whether or
not the death penalty for people with mental retardation violates the Eighth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That's the law that says that "cruel and
unusual punishment" will not be inflicted on citizens.
Just a few days after the governor signed the new law, North Carolina
Attorney General Roy Coopers sent a letter to the Supreme Court, asking it
to drop the case because it is no longer relevant. "Mr. McCarver will now
have his opportunity for a hearing on mental retardation," Cooper said.
McCarver's attorney, Seth Cohen, isn't breathing easily quite yet. On
Monday, he asked the court to move ahead with reviewing the case as planned,
anyway. Cohen says McCarver has an IQ of 67 and the "functioning level of a
10-year-old", but he is not convinced that the law will protect his client.
Prosecutors say McCarver has an IQ between 70 and 80 and scored 74 on one IQ
test. They also argue that he not only was capable of planning and
committing the murder, but also recruited an accomplice.
There has been no official response from the court.
More Inclusion Daily Express stories on McCarver's case and related links
are available at
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