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SCOTUS denies Vanderburgh County case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The nation's highest court won't take a Vanderburgh County case decided last year by the Indiana Supreme Court, which by a split vote reinstated the death sentence for a man convicted of murdering his wife and two young children.

At its weekly private conference March 28, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Paul M. McManus v. State of Indiana, No. 07-8435. After ruling in State of Indiana v. Paul M. McManus, No. 82S00-0503-PD-78, June 27, 2007, the Indiana Supreme Court denied a rehearing in September, and McManus appealed to SCOTUS in December 2007.

This denial means the state court's 3-2 decision stands, reversing a ruling by a lower court that McManus was mentally retarded and should be sentenced to life without parole.

McManus was convicted of the 2001 shooting murders of his wife and two children, and sentenced to death. He petitioned for post-conviction relief in 2005 after the state justices affirmed his convictions and sentence. His main argument rejected at the time was that he wasn't competent to stand trial. But in March 2006, Senior Judge William J. Brune ruled McManus was retarded and therefore couldn't be executed. The state appealed and won.

Justices Ted Boehm and Robert D. Rucker dissented from the majority of Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Brent Dickson and Frank Sullivan.

Dissenting justices relied on a ruling in Pruitt v. State, 834 N.E.2d 90, 104 (Ind. 2005) that affirmed a finding the defendant wasn't mentally retarded despite "significant evidence suggesting he was."

But the majority disagreed.

"The post-conviction court's finding that McManus possesses significantly subaverage intellectual functioning was clearly erroneous," Chief Justice Shepard wrote.

"In sum, McManus does not satisfy the intellectual functioning or adaptive behavior prongs. As such, the rule of Atkins does not bar the death penalty."
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