Life sentence for Va. death row inmate whose case led to national ban on executing retarded

Life for man who led to ban on executing retarded

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia death row inmate whose case led to the national ban on executing the mentally retarded will spend life in prison.

In a 5-2 decision Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a judge’s order commuting the sentence of Daryl Atkins to life in prison.

Atkins spent a decade on death row for the 1996 robbery and slaying of Air Force mechanic Eric Nesbitt. Defense attorneys argued that Atkins shouldn’t be executed because he is mentally retarded. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2002 that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional.

A new jury later decided Atkins wasn’t retarded and again imposed the death sentence, but a judge commuted the sentence after finding prosecutors failed to turn over key evidence at the trial.

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