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Federal Judge Denies Death Row Request for MRI

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Death row inmate David Eugene Matthews was denied his request on Friday to have court funds pay for an MRI in preparation for a clemency petition, leaving him that much closer to execution.

Federal Judge John G. Heyburn II of the Sixth District's Western District of Kentucky determined that Matthew's petition for MRI money was "not a proper use of federal funds" for the 64-year-old, reports The Associated Press.

What does this new ruling mean for the second-longest serving death row inmate?

Death Sentence Overturned, Re-turned

Matthews has been through the court system quite a bit before his latest brush with the federal court, and in 2011 he had his criminal conviction vacated by the Sixth Circuit on prosecutorial misconduct grounds.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Sixth Circuit and roundhouse kicked his case back to death row, after explaining that habeas relief was granted by ignoring the Supreme Court’s own case law on prosecutorial misconduct.

As things stand now, Matthews’ sentence is ready to be carried out, so he is pursuing clemency options.

Oh My Darlin’ Clemency

Like the titular Clementine, it appears that Matthews’ chances for clemency might be lost and gone forever unless he can successfully petition Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

This petition lies at the heart of the MRI money request, as Matthews may seek to bolster his claims of “extreme emotional disturbance,” the ones that failed in state and federal courts, if an MRI reveals any biochemical or neurological problems.

It isn’t a bad strategy either.

In 2012, California Gov. Jerry Brown commuted a grandmother’s life sentence to time served; a sentence which was overturned by the Ninth Circuit and then reversed by the Supreme Court.

Denied but Not Defeated

Matthew requested funds from the federal district court under 18 USC § 3599(f), for a neuropsychological evaluation and a brain MRI, arguing that prior psychological evaluations did not include this kind of testing.

Judge Heyburn fired back in his order by reminding Matthew that the court already awarded him $7,500 during his habeas petition for a psychology expert, and that it was improper for the court to keep bankrolling Matthew on issues that have already been litigated.

Although this may sound like a parent cutting off a child’s allowance, but there is still not an execution date set, so Matthews isn’t out of options just yet.

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