ILNews

Mental retardation claim anticipated in Fort Wayne case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A mental retardation defense could prevent the state from seeking the death penalty in a case involving a Fort Wayne man accused of killing his wife and three children in 2005.

Fort Wayne public defender Michelle F. Kraus plans to ask Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull to appoint an expert to evaluate accused killer Simon Rios in order to determine if he is mentally retarded.

If that happens and an expert finds the 35-year-old Rios mentally retarded, state law does not allow him to be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that executing anyone deemed mentally retarded is a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Indiana barred executing the mentally retarded in 1994 before the SCOTUS decision.

This topic came up Friday at the first legislative meeting of the Bowser Commission, which is the interim study committee looking at mental illness as it relates to the death penalty. At that gathering, Indiana Public Defender Council assistant director Paula Sites cited the mental retardation claims since the 1994 law changes and noted that only eight cases have raised the mental retardation defense - a point used to counter arguments about a potential "flood of litigation" that could arise from legally defining mental illness and barring those defendants from execution.

In the Rios case, he is accused of beating and strangling his wife, Ana Casas-Rios, 28, and then strangling the couple's three daughters, Liliana, 10, Katherinne, 4, and Thannya, 20 months.

A recent evaluation by a bilingual mental health expert found Rios has an IQ of 75, which is within the mild/borderline mental retardation range, according to published reports of court documents.

The judge last month denied a request by Kraus to delay the trial to investigate Rios' mental capacity, but this petition asks for an expert to examine whether Rios has a significantly sub-average level of intelligence. It also asks for an expert to determine whether Rios' everyday living abilities and his ability to acquire the skills people learn as they adapt to their surroundings are also substantially impaired.

Appointment of an expert could affect not only this family killing, but it could also delay Rios' separate sentencing in Delaware County on Friday for the rape-killing of a 10-year-old Fort Wayne girl. He pleaded guilty to abducting, raping, and murdering the girl, who was a neighbor; a plea agreement called for consecutive 50-year sentences on rape and child molesting charges and life without parole on the murder charge.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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