Print View  
Jury Finds Atkins Not Mentally Retarded and Eligible for Death
8/10/2005 10:45 AM

On August 5, 2005, a jury found that Daryl Atkins, convicted and sentenced to death for a 1996 crime, is not mentally retarded under Virginia's legal definition and may be executed. Atkins was sentenced to death for the 1996 kidnapping, robbing and murder of 21-year old Eric Nesbitt. In 2002, however, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the death penalty may not be applied to the mentally retarded. The Court did not define mental retardation, but left the definition up to individual states to decide.

Virginia defines mentally retarded offenders as individuals with an IQ less than 70 who have "significant limitations in adaptive behavior" that manifested before the age of eighteen. Atkins needed to prove he was mentally retarded by a preponderance of the evidence in order to avoid execution.

Jurors were not told about Nesbitt's murder. Instead, they heard seven days of testimony from psychologists, family, friends and teachers. They also heard from testimony Nesbitt had scored 59, 67, 74 and 76 on IQ tests. 

After almost thirteen hours of deliberations, jurors determined that Atkins was not mentally retarded. Daryl Atkin's execution date has been set for December 12.

Compiled from: Va. Killer Isn't Retarded, Jury Says; Execution Set, Maria Glod, The Washington Post, Aug. 6, 2005.