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.
The decision comes as a court elsewhere in Ohio considers the constitutionality of lethal injection. Lethal injection executions are on hold nationally while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge in a case from Kentucky.
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.”
Messages were left for the Summit County prosecutor’s office and the state public defender, which represented White.
White’s case will return to the trial court for resentencing.
Schrey was the mother of White’s former girlfriend, who broke up with White because he was abusive, according to a summary of the case by the Ohio attorney general’s office.
When Deborah Thorpe and Schrey went to White’s house to pick up belongings, White shot them. White then went to the workplace of Schrey’s daughter and tried to attack her, shooting Michael Thorpe in the head when he intervened, according to the attorney general’s office and Wednesday’s court ruling.