Friday, October 29, 2010

Judge upholds ruling that Mississippi man with MR diagnosis will be spared death penalty

From The Clarion-Ledger in Miss.:

The lives of two convicted killers on death row in Mississippi may be spared, based on decisions handed down this week from courts 200 hundred miles apart.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has upheld a 2009 ruling that William Wiley is mentally retarded.

And, the state Supreme Court has ruled that Kristi Fulgham will get a new sentencing hearing.

In Wiley's case, he could become the fourth death row inmate in the state spared from execution by a finding of mental retardation. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court determined it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally retarded.

Wiley, 54, has been on death row nearly 30 years. He was convicted in 1982 of shooting DeSoto County store owner J.B. Turner in the back with a shotgun during a robbery in the Mineral Wells community. In addition to killing the businessman on Aug. 22, 1981, he left Turner's daughter blinded in the attack.

No decision has been made by state Attorney General Jim Hood on whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We will consult with the victim's family and then make a decision," said Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said Oct. 28.

Robert McDuff, one of Wiley's attorneys, said cases involving the death penalty are tragic on many levels and difficult for all involved, particularly the victims and their family.

The attorney general's office argued that Wiley is not mentally retarded since state courts have found he wasn't mentally challenged.

The 35-page 5th Circuit opinion filed Wednesday said Wiley had four tests between 1989 and 2009 measuring his IQ and only one conducted by a state expert showed his IQ was above the threshold for mental competency.

"The record shows that Wiley consistently relied on others for virtually all direction of his life and daily living, including finances, healthcare, and employment," the opinion states.

But Turner's daughter, Carolyn Turner of Palm City, Fla., wrote a letter to the editor published in The Clarion-Ledger saying Wiley was not mentally retarded when he killed her father and he wasn't mentally retarded now.

"(William Wiley) needs to die like my father for justice to be served: In the name of my father," Carolyn Turner wrote. The Clarion-Ledger was unable o reach Carolyn Turner on Thursday.

In Fulgham's case, the state Supreme Court unanimously decided to toss the death sentence given for her role in the 2003 murder of her husband.

The court said the trial judge erred by disallowing testimony of a social worker in the sentencing phase of Fulgham's trial.

The justices upheld Fulgham's capital murder conviction in the shooting death of Joseph "Joey" Fulgham, at the couple's Longview community home in Oktibbeha County.

Fulgham was convicted and sentenced to death in December 2006 in Oktibbeha County.

"A defendant is permitted to introduce virtually any relevant and reliable evidence touching upon the defendant's background and character, or the crime itself, which is offered as a basis to persuade a jury to return a sentence of less than death," Supreme Court Justice Ann Lamar said in the ruling on Thursday.

Fulgham, 34, is one of three women on death row.

Prosecutors said Joey Fulgham was shot once in the head while he slept in his home in May 2003. They claim his wallet was missing and Kristi Fulgham wanted money.

Fulgham's attorneys argued that Joey Fulgham had abused her, and she suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.