Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Mental Disabilities Ruling Spurs Call for New Hearing

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Mental Disabilities Ruling Spurs Call for New Hearing

Article excerpt

Reacting to a June decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that held unconstitutional the execution of individuals with severe mental disabilities, the Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday called for an evidentiary hearing in the case of an Oklahoma man sentenced to death for first-degree murder.

Patrick Dwayne Murphy argued that at trial his counsel failed to present mitigating evidence concerning his background, including a deprived childhood, exposure to alcohol and violence at a young age, neuropsychological impairments and mental retardation.

Murphy was convicted in a murder of a man in what some witnesses described as a domestic situation. Murphy admitted to participating in the beating of the man, but not in killing him.

When tested for intelligence, Murphy scored 67, which the court said ranks him in the mildly mentally retarded range. His school records indicated he was "educable mentally handicapped." However, he graduated from high school with a 3.0 GPA and achieved 2.9 for classes he took in college.

The court also said that Murphy needs neurological testing to gauge any brain damage that might have occurred due to excessive drinking.

There was also evidence of a deficit in impulse control associated with hyperactivity and three head injuries.

Although Murphy did not raise the retardation issue on direct appeal, the court addressed the issue in light of recent legislative, executive and judicial activity in this area, including the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Atkins v. Virginia.

During the 2002 legislative session, Rep. Opio Toure, D-OKC, and Sen. Angela Monson, D-OKC, were authors of legislation barring the execution of the severely mentally disabled, but Gov. Frank Keating vetoed the measure.

Toure said at the time of the high court's decision that some guidance is needed from the state's highest criminal-case court regarding how the disability issue should be raised and whether it should be considered by a judge or jury.

In its decision Wednesday, the court adopted a definition of mental retardation to apply to individuals alleging they are not eligible to be sentenced to death. …

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