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. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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