Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

Smith v. Schriro, No. 96-99025/96-99026/10/99011 [February 4, 2016]

Smith v. Schriro

Pre-AEDPA case returned to the Ninth after remand to Arizona Supreme Court for an Atkins evidentiary hearing, wherein Mr. Smith’s claims were denied and his death sentence was affirmed. Atkins held that the execution of intellectually disabled criminals constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eight Amendment. The presumption of correctness under the previous statute was overcome by finding that the state court’s “factual determination is not fairly supported by the record” and it was “based on the application of constitutionally impermissible legal principles.” [Although, the last ground does not constitute the opinion of the Court, as only Judge Reinhardt relied on this grounds. He found that the “certainty standard applied by the state trial court was plainly contrary to the clear and convincing standard required by Arizona statue and adopted by its supreme court” and, therefore, unconstitutional under Atkins] The court refused to follow the state court findings as it looked behind the expert’s conclusions and found that the great majority of the evidence strongly reinforces the defense expert’s opinion and that the prosecution’s expert’s opinion “lacks even fair evidentiary support.” The court held that “a defendant comes within the protection of Atkins if he can demonstrate that was intellectually disabled during” the time the crime was committed and/or the ensuing trial. Here, after a long discussion of the evidence the court concludes that the “evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that Smith experienced significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning” and in adaptive behavior at the dispositive time. “Viewing the record as a whole, we find that Smith has demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning existed concurrently with significant impairment in adaptive behavior, and that both conditions were manifested prior to age eighteen and at the time Smith committed the capital offense.”

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