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VA jury says killer at center of US high court case mentally fit for execution

[JURIST] A jury in Virginia Friday found that Daryl Renard Atkins [Street Law backgrounder] is not mentally retarded, and upheld his death penalty conviction. Atkins had been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 1996 killing of Airman 1st Class Eric Nesbitt; he later appealed his conviction [certiorari petition] to the US Supreme Court, arguing that he was mentally retarded at the time of the murder and therefore did not posses the necessary culpability to be sentenced to death under Virginia law. Prosecutors argued that while Atkins' IQ test scores indicated low intelligence, several scores taken after the murder were above the range necessary to be considered mentally retarded. In 2002 the Supreme Court issued an opinio [text] abolishing the death penalty for the severely mentally retarded, but did not pass on Atkins' own mental state, leaving that determination to the state. Atkins' execution is scheduled for December. AP has more.

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