ATLANTA, GA (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled that the burden that Georgia places on death penalty defendants to prove they are mentally incompetent is unconstitutional.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that requiring defendants to prove they are mentally incompetent beyond a reasonable doubt violates the Constitution's ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
The ruling also concluded it would "result in the execution of the mentally incompetent" - which the U.S. Supreme Court banned in 2002.
Georgia defense attorneys say the decision should result in new hearings for up to 10 inmates on Georgia's death row who previously raised mental retardation claims at trial. State attorneys are reviewing the ruling and could appeal.