Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: March 14, 2006
Sen. Todd Lamb
Sen. Jim Wilson
Senate Passes Guidelines for Determining Mental Retardation
in Death Penalty Cases
The Senate voted Tuesday to establish
clear, fair guidelines for determining if a convicted
murderer is mentally retarded and thereby ineligible
to receive the death penalty. Sen. Todd
Lamb, R-Edmond, introduced Senate Bill 1807 at the
request of Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
Wilson, D-Tahlequah, is a co-author of the bill.
“We certainly don’t want
to execute mentally retarded individuals in this state,
but neither do we want to see defendants claiming mental
retardation just to escape punishment for their heinous
crimes,” said Lamb. “The courts have asked
the Legislature for guidance in this matter, and it’s
time for us to step up to the plate and create a fair
standard for determining mental retardation.”
SB 1807 would require that a murderer
have an intelligence quotient of 76 or above to be eligible
for the death penalty. The legislation provides for
evidentiary hearings and a professional evaluation by
a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
in 2002 that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional,
mental retardation has become the “defense de
jour” for murder defendants, said Edmondson. However,
there is no clear, fair standard in law for determining
which defendants can be considered mentally retarded.
“The court left it to each state
to develop the proper method to enforce this constitutional
restriction,” said Edmondson. “In Oklahoma,
we have failed to legislatively establish that process.”
In December, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal
Appeals overturned the death sentences of three convicted
killers after a trial judge and jury had previously
determined the defendants were not mentally retarded.
“These people killed with ice picks,
axes, dismembered their victims – these aren’t
Boy Scouts we’re talking about,” said Lamb.
“This clearly isn’t a partisan issue. This
measure passed unanimously out of committee. This is
about public safety. It allows the sentence of death
to be handed to the most evil of society while restricting
that sentence for those that are mentally retarded,
as required by the United States Supreme Court. These
guidelines pass constitutional muster and are consistent
with the will of the people of Oklahoma.”
SB 1807 now heads to the Oklahoma House
of Representatives for further consideration.
more information contact:
Senator Lamb's Office - (405) 521-5632