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Capital Case of Incompetent Man Going to Supreme Court

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if a federal appeals court ruled correctly when it concluded that federal appeals should be delayed for an Ohio man.

The justices agreed yesterday to hear the case, a victory for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The high court will hear oral arguments next fall.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Sean Carter, convicted by a Trumbull County jury for the 1997 murder of his adoptive grandmother, suffered from such mental illness that he was not competent to have his appeals heard. The court concluded that no more appeals could be heard until it was determined whether Mr. Carter was competent enough to understand the appeals process.

Mr. Carter, who has been held in a state facility for mentally ill prisoners, is suffering from schizophrenia and hallucinations. He faces the death penalty.

After exhausting state appeals, new attorneys for Mr. Carter filed his federal court appeals, arguing that he did not have an effective lawyer during his trial. The federal appeals panel said “only Carter knows critical parts of the factual basis for these claims . . . and that evidence is inaccessible as long as he remains unable to communicate’’ with his new attorneys.

A.G. DeWine said in a statement that he was “pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to hear this important case. Our state courts have mechanisms in place to address a defendant’s allegations of incompetency. This decision unnecessarily opens the door to decades of delay and collateral litigation in federal court.”

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