Convicted Killer Gets Stay

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Convicted Killer Gets Stay

Post by Snaz on Thu Mar 04, 2010 7:25 pm

Florida Supreme Court issues stay of execution for man convicted of Orange County killing
Orange circuit court will need to hold hearing to determine if David Johnston is mentally retarded.

By Sarah Lundy
6:28 p.m. EST, March 4, 2010

The Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for David Johnston, a convicted killer who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday.

The delay announced Thursday will allow a circuit judge in Orlando to hold a hearing on whether "newly discovered evidence" shows Johnston is mentally retarded.

Florida prohibits the execution of mentally retarded people.

To be considered legally retarded, a defendant must have an IQ of 70 or below and can't perform "adaptive functions," such as holding a job, cooking a meal and balancing a check book. Both conditions must have existed before the person was 18.

Johnston's attorney, Todd Doss, told the high court Thursday in Tallahassee that a more recent, "more accurate" IQ test scored Johnston at 61 — lower than a previous test — and qualifies him to be spared the state's death penalty.

Johnston, 49, was convicted in the 1983 murder of Mary Hammond. The 84-year-old woman was found stabbed to death in her Orlando home.

Johnston had been working at a demolition site near Hammond's home and had spoken to Hammond before her death.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Nunnelley argued that the courts already addressed Johnston's mental status in 2005. He scored an 84 on an earlier version of the IQ test. And two experts found him not to be mentally retarded, he said.

"It's an issue that has been raised and decided," he told the justices during a 45-minute hearing.

Several justices asked why a hearing shouldn't be ordered to determine the discrepancy in scores and the difference in the test given in 2005 and the more recent test.

"If 61 is a more accurate assessment of his IQ, that raises a claim that needs to be explored on an evidentiary basis," Chief Justice Peggy Quince said hours before the court issued its ruling.

The hearing must be scheduled in the Orange Circuit Court within a month.,0,5367932.story


Updated 1/22/11

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