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SCOTUS to Consider Sean Carter Death Penalty Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in another death penalty appeal this week. Next fall, the Court will review the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Warren killer Sean Carter's appeals must be postponed until he is competent to participate in the proceedings, reports

Carter was convicted in 1997 of raping and murdering his adoptive grandmother. In late 2007, he was transferred from death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution to Oakwood Correctional Facility, a psychiatric prison, due to declining mental competency. He has since returned to Chillicothe, but former District Judge Peter Economus dismissed prosecutors' filing to have Carter returned to death row due to Carter's mental condition.

Judge Economus noted that Carter was "disoriented and unable to comprehend or respond to communications from others. His daily functioning, while previously restricted, also has deteriorated with extremely poor personal hygiene and lack of consistent sleep habits due to nightly, persistent screaming and laughing," reports

Prosecutors, however, say mental competency isn't necessary for the appeals process to continue, and to conclude otherwise would delay Carter's death penalty appeal indefinitely. Ohio argues, "Under the Sixth Circuit's extraordinarily loose standards, any prisoner can make a minimal showing of incompetence, demand a hearing, and secure an indefinite stay of his habeas proceedings," reports SCOTUSblog.

The outcome of this case will be closely watched, not just in Ohio and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but nationwide. Seventeen states joined Ohio's appeal to the Court asking for clarification of Rees v. Peyton, a 1966 decision involving a death row mental competency appeal. The Court put a hold on Virginia death-row inmate Melvin Davis Rees, Jr in 1967, and never returned to it. Rees died in prison in 1995, according to SCOTUSblog.

Sean Carter's case isn't the first Ohio death penalty the Court will consider this year. In February, the Supreme Court stayed death row inmate Charles Lorraine's execution due to inconsistencies in the Ohio's lethal injection protocol, according to The Plain Dealer.

In January, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal courts must monitor every Ohio execution "because the State cannot be trusted to fulfill its otherwise lawful duty to execute inmates sentenced to death."

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