Court Overturns Ohio Death Sentence

Andrew Welsh-Huggins, AP, April 9, 2008

The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the death sentence of a double murderer, agreeing with defense lawyers who said the man shouldn’t be executed because he is mentally retarded.

The court ruled unanimously in favor of convicted killer Clifton White of Akron, citing the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that executing the mentally retarded violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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White was sentenced to death for the Christmas Eve 1995 murder of Deborah Thorpe in Akron. He also killed Julie Schrey in the same attack and wounded Thorpe’s 19-year-old son, Michael.

Prosecutors say White was angry over his breakup with Schrey’s daughter.

The court rejected lower court rulings that said White did not meet the U.S. Supreme Court’s three-prong test for mental retardation.

That test requires a low IQ generally under 70, a person’s lack of basic skills such as communication or living by himself, and the onset of mental retardation symptoms before age 18.

No evidence was presented “to suggest that White’s current impairments could be explained by anything that happened after he turned 18, such as a brain injury,” wrote Justice Robert Cupp. “Nor does anything in White’s history indicate that he functioned at a higher level before age 18 than he does today.”

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