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Justices Take Up Low IQ Death-Penalty Case

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court took up a case Friday where the 5th Circuit reinstated Louisiana's plan to execute a cop killer whom a federal judge found was "mentally retarded."

A jury ordered the death penalty for Kevan Brumfield in 1995 after finding him guilty of first-degree murder related to the death of Cpl Betty Smothers, an officer of the police department in Baton Rouge, La.

Though Brumfield initially challenged his conviction on the basis of insanity, he claimed mental retardation after the Supreme Court prohibited states from executing the mentally impaired with the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia.

The trial court denied Brumfield an Atkins hearing, but the inmate finally obtained one in 2010 after a victory in federal court.

A federal judge for the Middle District of Louisiana granted Brumfield's petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2012 on the grounds that he is mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution.

Though the court enjoined Louisiana from executing Brumfield, the 5th Circuit reversed earlier this year because it found that the Middle District did not give the state court's determination appropriate deference under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

"Based on the evidence in the record, we conclude that the state court did not clearly err in determining that Brumfield failed to satisfy his burden under Louisiana law of placing his mental condition at issue," the appellate court found.

Per its custom, the U.S. Supreme Court issued no comment in taking up the case Friday.

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