Mentally Retarded Missouri Man Granted Stay of Execution; ACLU Renews Call for Clemency

Affiliate: ACLU of Missouri
March 7, 2001 12:00 am

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ST. LOUIS, MO–The American Civil Liberties Union today renewed its call for clemency in the case of a mentally retarded man here whose death sentence was put on hold by the United States Supreme Court last night just hours before he was scheduled to be executed.

The stay comes amid growing support for clemency for Antonio Richardson, including a plea to Governor Bob Holden from the mother of the two victims in the case, Ginny Kerry.

The American Bar Association, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Association for Retarded Citizens, and Amnesty International have also joined in the call for clemency.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Missouri are continuing their efforts to ban executions of people with mental retardation-a proposal which Governor Holden reportedly supports.

“Whatever moral authority Missouri has to impose and carry out death sentences rests on the promise that it is applied fairly and to the right individuals,” the ACLU said in a letter sent to Gov. Holden on Feb. 28. “In the case of Antonio Richardson, we can say that neither is true.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis first issued a stay of execution Tuesday afternoon after several groups protested that Richardson, who is considered to have borderline mental retardation with an IQ of 70, should not be executed because of his diminished mental capacity and because of his age when he committed his crimes.

Missouri appealed the stay to the U.S. Supreme Court, which voted to vacate the stay of execution. But the High Court then ordered its own stay of execution in response to another appeal by Richardson’s attorneys.

A similar case in Texas is expected to go before the Supreme Court later this month and could impact Richardson’s fate, the ACLU said. The Justices will determine if jurors considered convicted Texas murderer Johnny Paul Penry’s low mental capacity in sentencing him to death.

Currently, 12 states and the federal government have passed legislation forbidding the execution of people with mental retardation, and 27 states and the federal government prohibit the execution of offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes.

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