Smith v. Schriro

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 02-04-2016
  • Case #: 96-99025; 96-99026; 10-99011
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Reinhardt for the Court; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Schroeder; Special Concurrence by Circuit Judge Reinhardt; Dissent by Circuit Judge Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

It is unconstitutional for an intellectually disabled person to be executed even if their crime merits execution.

After Robert Smith kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered a person, an Arizona state court convicted and sentenced Smith to death. The state court found Smith was not intellectually disabled at the time of the offense and disregarded his Atkins defense—which held that sentencing intellectually disabled persons to death violates the Eight Amendment. The Arizona Court of Appeals and Arizona Supreme Court affirmed. The district court denied Smith’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Ninth Circuit granted review and held that Smith is intellectually disabled under Atkins. The panel did not defer to the state court’s factual conclusion that Smith wasn’t intellectually disabled because “it lacks fair support in the record as a whole.” The panel held Smith was intellectually disabled based on Smith’s low score on the Otis Intelligence Scale Test coupled with Smith’s consistently poor performance in school, and review testimony regarding Smith’s inability to adapt socially. Further, the panel determined the Superior Court applied an incorrect and unconstitutional legal standard when it required Smith to demonstrate with a “degree of certainty” that he is intellectually disabled. Thus, the panel held that Smith is intellectually disabled and may not be executed. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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