Couey Not Mentally Retarded, Eligible for The Death Penalty

INVERNESS, Fla. (AP) - The judge has ruled that the man convicted of kidnapping and raping 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford is not mentally retarded and is eligible for the death penalty.

John Couey's attorneys argue that their client suffered lifelong mental abuse and possessed a below normal IQ. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the execution of mentally retarded people.

But Citrus County Circuit Judge Ric Howard ruled that the most credible intelligence exam rated Couey's IQ slightly above the level generally considered retarded.

Couey spent much of his trial drawing in coloring books. The jury brushed aside the defense's pleas for mercy, voting 10-2 to recommend that Couey be executed for Jessica's slaying.

Florida law puts the final sentencing decision in the hands of a judge, who must give great weight to a jury recommendation. Sentencing has
been scheduled for August 24th.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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