Provision in South Dakota death penalty law unconstitutional, judge rules
Updates to mental health science push definition of 'intellectual disability' out of bounds
A provision in South Dakota’s death penalty law exempting intellectually challenged individuals is unconstitutional because it doesn’t square with the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a Lincoln County judge has ruled.
The 19-page opinion handed down last week by Second Circuit Court Presiding Judge Robin Houwman means an accused murderer will not face capital punishment unless Houwman’s opinion is overturned on appeal.
The Lincoln County State’s Attorney’s Office is pursuing the death penalty against Amir Hasan Beaudion Jr., charged with the killing of Pasqualina Esen Badi, abducted from a Walmart lot in January 2020.
Beaudion’s attorneys argue their client is mentally incompetent to face the death penalty, contending his mental capacity is below the standard at which the government can use capital punishment to punish an offender.
The state, however, disagrees and says a low IQ alone — Beaudion’s is reportedly 60 — does not meet the criteria in state law defining intellectual disability. Rather, the statute requires a “subaverage” intellectual function to also be accompanied by related behavioral and social deficits in order to qualify for the exemption. The statute has been on the books since 2000.