WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an Alabama inmate who complained that he didn’t have an independent mental health expert to help him try to stave off a death sentence at his trial.
The justices divided 5-4 Monday in siding with inmate James McWilliams. He did not have his own expert when he was convicted of raping and killing a convenience store clerk in Tuscaloosa.
The justices had previously decided that poor defendants whose mental health might be a factor in the criminal charges they are facing have a right to an expert’s evaluation.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court that McWilliams’ mental health assistance “fell far short” of what the earlier case required.
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The decision could also affect two Arkansas inmates on death row.