Should John Couey, 48, be put to death for killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida? The defense says Couey, who was convicted yesterday, isn’t even eligible for capital punishment because he is mentally retarded, reports the St. Petersburg Times. The judge will make that determination; evidence on Couey’s mental state may influence jurors when they consider their sentencing recommendation.
Testimony in the sentencing phase, which begins Tuesday, will likely focus on Couey’s mental capabilities. The state rejects the retardation argument. Jail guards say Couey read the newspaper daily, perused books from the law library, and worked Sudoku puzzles. Since retardation became an issue, Couey has spent his courtroom days doodling in coloring books. Psychologist Robert Berland, a witness for the defense, testified that Couey’s IQ score classifies him as mildly mentally retarded. Sentencing will be “based on the crime charged and the degree of the defendant’s mental capacity,” said Prof. Charlie Rose of Stetson University College of Law. “It’s very much an individual question.”