Sanderlin Denied Mental Retardation Hearing

News Update 07.23.08

North Carolina

Judge Paul Gessner has ruled that Joseph Sanderlin, who is accused in the 2005 killing of Lauren Redman, is not entitled to a pretrial hearing on whether he is mentally retarded. Under North Carolina law, a person whose IQ is below 70, and who exhibited deficits in adaptive functioning prior to the age of 18, is considered mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution. Sanderlin’s IQ has consistently tested between 64 and 69 throughout his lifetime. The question of Sanderlin’s mental retardation is not settled; if he is found guilty of first-degree murder, the jury will readdress the issue before deciding on his sentence. Sanderlin’s co-defendant, Byron Waring, was sentenced to death last year. Sanderlin’s trial will begin September 29th.

Attorneys for William Kreutzer argued yesterday that trying their client at Fort Bragg would be like trying the Virginia Tech shooter (had he not committed suicide) in front of a jury of VT students, while represented by VT alums. In 1995, Kreutzer fired on his own unit during a training exercise, killing one and injuring 18 others. He will be tried before a jury of other soldiers, and is represented by soldier-attorneys appointed for him by the military. Kreutzer’s attorneys believe that the shooting affected the Fort Bragg community so profoundly that Kreutzer can only get a fair trial if the case is heard on another base.

Elsewhere

Some recent studies suggest that DNA is not the sure thing we all thought it was. DNA labs have been finding “matches” between people who are not only unrelated, but of different races. According to the FBI, the odds of unrelated people sharing genetic markers to such a degree is 1 in 113 billion, but it has happened several times. In a Maryland database of 30,000 people, 32 matched at nine or more loci, three of which were “perfect” matches, identical at 13 out of 13 loci. That should only happen among identical twins and other immediate siblings. One blogger ran his DNA and found that he is a 12-point match for dozens of people he has never met.

The Clarion-Ledger, a pro-death penalty newspaper in Mississippi, is calling for clemency for Dale Leo Bishop, who is scheduled to be executed tonight. Although Bishop held and kicked the victim, Marcus Gentry, another man inflicted the fatal blows. The actual killer was sentenced to life in prison. Bishop also suffers from documented mental illness that interfered with his ability to assist in his defense.

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