Supreme Court to Hear Case on Intellectual Disability Hearings

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in Brumfield v. Cain, a death penalty case from Louisiana dealing with intellectual disability. Kevan Brumfield was sentenced to death prior to the Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), which banned the execution of defendants with intellectual disabilities. After that ruling, Brumfield filed a claim of intellectual disability in state court. The court denied him a hearing because the trial transcript showed no evidence of his disability. A federal district court found that the state court had “mistakenly – and unreasonably– considered the record from Petitioner’s pre-Atkins penalty phase as determinative of Petitioner’s mental retardation claim under Atkins,” granted Brumfield a hearing, and found him to be intellectually disabled and therefore exempt from execution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the federal district court’s decision. Brumfield’s attorneys said, “As a result of this decision, the compelling evidence presented to the district court will be ignored, and a person who was found to be mentally retarded will be executed.” The Supreme Court will determine whether Brumfield should have been granted a hearing on his claim of intellectual disability.

(R. Barnes, “Supreme Court to hear Confederate-flag license plate case from Texas,” Washington Post, December 5, 2014; Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Brumfield v. Cain.) See Intellectual Disability and U.S. Supreme Court.