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Justices Consider Mental Competency in Arkansas Death Row Case

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Attorneys for a death row inmate say his conviction should be overturned because he was not mentally competent to stand trial back in 2002.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Attorneys for a death row inmate say his conviction should be overturned because he was not mentally competent to stand trial back in 2002.

A Crawford County jury sentenced Rickey Dale Newman, 56, to the death penalty after a one-day trial for the 2001 murder of a Van Buren woman.

Newman confessed to the murder and asked the jury for the death penalty.

Julie Brain with the Federal Public Defender's office says Newman was unable to assist rationally in his own defense due to an IQ level of 67 and suicidal impulses.

In oral arguments before the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday, Brain says Newman should have his conviction vacated.

"Mr. Newman got on the stand, proclaimed his guilt to the jury in the most outrageous and provocative terms he could muster and asked them to give him the death penalty," Brain says. "That's the evidence of incompetence in this case."

Deputy attorney general Darnisa Johnson argued that Newman was well aware of his decisions, based on his willingness to be psychologically examined by his defense attorneys.

"He knew why he was on trial, he knew the consequences of being found guilty, he knew that the sentence was either life or death and he chose death," Johnson says.

Newman is one of 33 men on death row in Arkansas.

The last execution of an inmate occurred in November 2005.


(KARK, Little Rock)

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