ACLU Statement on Georgia Supreme Court’s Decision in Rodney Young Case

Court Fails to Recognize Young’s Intellectual Disability and Spare him from the Death Penalty

June 1, 2021 9:00 am

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ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Young v. the State of Georgia today, upholding the death sentence of Rodney Young, despite his intellectual disability. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Georgia Capital Defender Office represent Mr. Young, whose case was argued to the state Supreme Court in March.

Georgia law, unique in the nation, requires prisoners claiming intellectual disability to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt before they are exempt from the death penalty. No defendant has ever met this burden and successfully proven their intellectual disability.

Brian Stull, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, issued the following statement:

“This decision is devastating for our client, Mr. Young, his family and community, the intellectual disability movement, and the legal team who has worked with our client. The Georgia Supreme Court continued an error today that has plagued Georgia capital prosecutions since 2002 when the U.S. Supreme Court announced that people with intellectual disability could no longer be executed in Atkins v. Virginia. Georgia is the only state in the nation that requires defendants with intellectual disability to prove this disability beyond a reasonable doubt in order to spare their life, as required by the Atkins decision and the Eighth Amendment.

“Georgia’s uniquely high and onerous burden means that people with intellectual disability will be executed, just as Warren Hill was executed in 2015, despite every expert who interviewed him affirming his intellectual disability. As four of the Georgia justices recognized, today’s decision violates the reasoning of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions forbidding states from upholding procedures that create unacceptable risks of executing persons with intellectual disability. We will take Mr. Young’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court and ask it to correct the injustices coming out of Georgia once and for all. We won’t stop fighting for Rodney Young.”

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