Alabama Judge Vacates Death Sentence for ACLU Client
MOBILE, Ala. — The death sentence for American Civil Liberties Union client Lam Luong was successfully vacated by an Alabama court today at a hearing where Luong was resentenced to life without parole. This ruling comes after a nine-year appeal process.
After Luong’s conviction in 2009, the ACLU uncovered extensive mitigating evidence that trial lawyers had not found, including information suggesting that he had an intellectual disability. After further exploration and testing, experts hired by the ACLU and the state of Alabama concluded that Luong did, in fact, have an intellectual disability, which would make his execution unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, as the U.S. Supreme Court held in Atkins v. Virginia.
Anna Arceneaux, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, had the following response:
“Mr. Luong was convicted and sentenced to death by a process that was both unfair and unconstitutional. The trial court rushed to try Mr. Luong, a process that represented the fastest capital case to go to trial in Mobile. And in the face of intense community pressure, his lawyers and the court alike missed the obvious signs of Mr. Luong’s intellectual disability and severe mental illness.
“Experts with both the ACLU and the state of Alabama agree that Mr. Luong meets the criteria for intellectual disability and therefore is ineligible for execution under the United States Constitution. Everyone deserves a fair trial — something that Mr. Luong did not have, as the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and several judges on the Alabama Supreme Court have recognized. Today’s ruling is essential in righting that wrong.”
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