The Virginia Supreme Court unanimously overturned a trial court’s determination that Daryl Atkins was not mentally retarded and that he was eligible for the death penalty. Atkins’ 2002 appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court resulted in the Court ruling that the execution of the mentally retarded is unconstitutional, but the ruling left it up to states to define retardation and determine the procedures for establishing this disability. Atkins’ case was then sent back to the York County Circuit Court, where, in 2005, a jury determined that he was not retarded, a decision that allowed his death sentence to stand. In their most recent appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, Atkins’ attorneys argued that the jury should not have been told that Akins had been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. The lawyers stated that this information distracted the jury from fairly carrying out its duty to decide whether Atkins was mentally retarded. The Virginia Supreme Court agreed, stating in its opinion, “The fact that the jury knew a prior jury had sentenced Atkins to death prejudiced his right to a fair trial on the issue of his mental retardation.”

(Associated Press, June 8, 2006). See Mental Retardation and U.S. Supreme Court.