Prosecutors in the case against the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter have requested a deadline of April 23 for defense attorneys to notify the court whether they will pursue a claim that their client suffers from a mental disability.
If the man who is accused of murdering 11 Jews at the Tree of Life building on Oct. 27, 2018, is found to have a mental disability, he will not be subject to the death penalty.
Last week, the U.S. attorney’s office filed papers requesting that the judge take action to move the case to trial more quickly, while the defense is seeking an additional six months to explore any potential mental health issues that the accused may have.
In their court papers, prosecutors wrote that “defense counsel asserts that even after almost 16 months, they cannot inform the court of the defendant’s intention to raise an Atkins claim of severe intellectual disability (formerly referred to as ‘mental retardation’) and purportedly cannot even begin to assess the viability of such a claim for another six months.”
Atkins was a U.S. Supreme Court case holding that it is unconstitutional to execute people with intellectual disabilities.
Defense attorney Judy Clarke, an expert on capital cases, and her team have said they need additional time to do intellectual testing on their client and urged the court to postpone scheduling a trial date. pjc