A psychologist called California death row inmate Anderson “Peewee” Hawthorne Jr. “one of the most profoundly impaired individuals that I have seen within a forensic (prison) population,” says the San Francisco Chronicle. His attorneys say Hawthorne can be classified as mentally retarded and thus is exempt from the death penalty under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. An attorney for the state says Hawthorne is not retarded.
The California Supreme Court today considers whether Hawthorne and 20 to 30 other condemned prisoners should have their sentences reduced to life without parole. Those criteria also would apply to future trials of death-penalty defendants who claim to be retarded. The ruling has the potential to reduce California’s death row population by more than any single decision since the 1970s, when the state court twice overturned the death penalty law.