Advocates Seek to Exclude Death Penalty for Defendants With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A growing number of murder cases nationwide seek to exclude the death penalty for defendants with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), The Seattle Times reports.

In one such case, advocates are trying to prevent the death penalty for Mark Anthony Soliz, a convicted murderer on death row in Texas. His mother drank heavily, used drugs and sniffed paint while she was pregnant, the article notes.

Those who favor eliminating the death penalty for people with fetal alcohol syndrome point to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to abolish the death penalty for defendants with mental retardation. “The damage to the executive functioning of the brain is as severe as someone who is intellectually disabled,” said John Niland, Director of the Capital Trial Project with the Texas Defender Service.

Victims’ advocates and prosecutors say such a decision would let killers off easy. “FAS should not be used as an excuse for intentionally and knowingly murdering another person,” victims’ rights advocate Andy Kahan told the newspaper. “Clearly, the defendant has been able to make law-abiding decisions on a daily basis, and they obviously know right from wrong. FAS is yet another hurdle for surviving family members of homicide to overcome to secure justice for the coldblooded murder of their loved ones.”

Another Texas death-row inmate, Yokamon Laneal Hearn, who was also diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, is set for execution Wednesday. He was convicted in the shooting of a stockbroker during a robbery. Amnesty International is urging a letter-writing campaign for clemency to Texas Governor Rick Perry. The article notes the U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected a request to review a fetal alcohol case, which involved Louisiana death-row inmate Brandy Holmes, who was named after her mother’s favorite liquor.

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