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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues