474 U.S. 925 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

SMITH v. FRANCIS , 474 U.S. 925 (1985)

474 U.S. 925

William Alvin SMITH
Robert O. FRANCIS, Warden.
No. 84-6780

Supreme Court of the United States

October 21, 1985

Rehearing Denied Dec. 9, 1985.

See 474 U.S. 1026.

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, dissenting.

Adhering to my views that the death penalty is in all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 227, 2950, 49 L. Ed.2d 859 (1976), I would grant certiorari and vacate the death sentence in this case.

Page 474 U.S. 925 , 926

Justice MARSHALL, dissenting.

I would vacate the judgment of the Georgia Supreme Court insofar as it left undisturbed the death sentence imposed in this case. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 231, 2973 (1976) ( MARSHALL, J., dissenting). The petitioner has presented an important question concerning the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment as applied to the execution of a mentally retarded person.


The petitioner is mentally retarded, with an IQ of 65 and mental abilities roughly equivalent to those of a 10-year-old child. He was tried for the murder of one Dan Turner, a friend of the petitioner and his family. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime. The petitioner had gone into Turner's grocery store to buy some cigarettes. The petitioner testified at trial that he grabbed Turner when the latter opened the cash register. Turner reacted by picking up a hammer, and the petitioner then stabbed him and hit him with the hammer after it fell from the victim's hand. The petitioner took money from the cash register and Turner's wallet and fled.

The petitioner turned himself in to the police and gave a lengthy statement in which he admitted stabbing Turner. When asked about the reasons for his actions, the petitioner stated that he had wanted to get money. At trial, however, the petitioner stated that he had not entered the store intending to rob Turner, and did not know why he had grabbed Turner as the latter was getting the petitioner's cigarettes.

A psychiatrist who examined the petitioner stated that the petitioner showed considerable remorse in discussing the murder. The petitioner testified at trial that he "didn't mean to kill Mr. Dan," but had gotten " carried away" after he saw the victim wielding the hammer in what the petitioner interpreted as a threatening manner. There was evidence that the petitioner was under considerable stress in the days preceding the murder. The petitioner's counsel argued that the petitioner was insane or, at minimum, lacked the requisite mental intent because of his retardation. Nevertheless, the jury found the petitioner guilty of malice murder and armed robbery and sentenced him to death. [474 U.S. 925 , 927]

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