LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Attorneys for an Arkansas death row inmate told the state’s Supreme Court on Thursday that the man’s initial set of defense lawyers was so bad that he is entitled to a new trial.
New attorneys for Brandon Lacy say he suffers from alcohol-fueled amnesia and received such poor legal help while on trial that he is entitled to a new trial, but lawyers for the state say Lacy was aware of his actions when Randy Walker died during a $20 robbery in 2007. In their arguments, Lacy’s lawyers say a co-defendant may have helped fill gaps in the condemned man’s memory.
Prosecutors say Lacy struck Walker twice in the head with a fireplace poker, stabbed him and slit his throat.
“He asked me, ‘Why?'” Lacy told an investigator when asked to recall Walker’s final words. A co-defendant sentenced to life without parole struck Walker in the head with a bar from a set of weights and, after Walker died, the men set his mobile home on fire.
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In court papers filed ahead of a hearing Thursday before the state Supreme Court, Lacy’s new lawyers had said the trial team failed to pursue evidence of mental problems in a man who has depression and “extreme alcoholism” and abused drugs.
“This error was prejudicial because it robbed Lacy of his only chance at an acquittal,” lawyer Bill James wrote to the state Supreme Court. Later Thursday, the lawyer who argued Lacy’s case before the justices said an initial lawyer noticed red flags but didn’t follow up and that the decision could cost an inmate his life.
“For whatever reason, he neglected to do his job,” lawyer Michael Kaiser said.
The Arkansas attorney general’s office noted the court previously rejected Lacy’s claims that he had bad lawyers. It said the trial attorneys gave an emotional closing argument and, pleading against a death sentence, told jurors, “Let him die, but don’t be a part of it.”
According to prosecutors, Lacy stole $20 from Walker and took back a gun he had previously sold to Walker for $100.
Separately Thursday, justices refused to withdraw orders filed in March that moved Don Davis and Bruce Ward closer to execution. The inmates wanted their cases put on hold while they ask U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether they should have had dedicated access to mental health professionals at their trials.
Arkansas executed four men in eight days last year. The state uses a combination of three drugs to put inmates to death, but as of Thursday had only two on hand.