JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a death penalty sentence for man who is mentally retarded. Andrew Lyons, 52, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1996 and sentenced to death for the 1992 killing of his estranged girlfriend.
Lyons filed a petition in mandamus, claiming to be mentally retarded and therefore ineligible to be executed.
A court-appointed master supported Lyons’ claims. The master concluded that Lyons’ IQ was in a range of 61 to 70, that Lyons had continual extensive related deficits in two adaptive behaviors, and that the symptoms were present and documented before Lyons had turned 18.
“Although there is evidence, as noted earlier, that Lyons manifested these conditions before age 18, the state contends there was insufficient documentation of these conditions,” the court wrote in a unanimous opinion. “The state vigorously notes the lack of an IQ test result from prior to age 18 and the scant school records and other evidence with respect to the adaptive behaviors.
“Documentation, as with any other fact, is a matter of proof. In reaching his conclusion, the master was entitled to make reasonable inferences from the evidence. A purpose of requiring documentation is to diminish the possibility a defendant will fabricate or exaggerate the symptoms of mental retardation to avoid punishment. The records that Lyons presented and the testimony received are sufficient for the master to conclude that Lyons’ conditions were not a recent fabrication and that they were documented prior to Lyons attaining 18 years of age.”
The court set aside Lyons’ death sentence and resentenced him to life without parole.