Supreme Court Reject’s Death Row Female’s Appeal

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Washington, DC – The United States Supreme Court announced on Monday their decision to decline hearing appeals for more than 2,000 cases. Among those is the case of a Louisiana woman sentenced to death row for a 2003 murder.

The inmate, Brandy Holmes, was convicted of murdering retired Shreveport minister Julian Brandon on January 1, 2003. Her lawyers filed an appeal to reject the death sentence, arguing Holmes’ case of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was not considered by the Louisiana state court during her previous trial, and that the court did not conduct an accurate review of past similar cases, making their judgment invalid.

Fetal alcohol syndrome, a form of mental retardation, is found in more then 40,000 newborns each year. Lawyers argue that Holmes’ FAS causes her to have the mental capacity of a 10 to 12 year old child, and say that this should have affected the outcome of her case. They were also challenging the Louisiana state constitution and death penalty system. The district attorney who prosecuted the case has said the fetal alcohol syndrome claim is not valid.

Charles Ogletree, Holmes’ attorney, wrote in his argument that the state court refused to “review the extensive mitigating circumstances that limited Ms. Holmes’s moral culpability and compare them to the mitigating circumstances presented in similar cases. The [state] court also failed to consider that petitioner’s co-defendant received a death sentence and that the prosecutor stated at the co-defendant’s trial that he (and not the petitioner) was the more culpable party.”

The co-defendant in the case, Robert Coleman, is also on death row in Louisiana. Both Holmes and Coleman robbed and shot Brandon and his wife, taking money, ATM cards, and jewelry from the home. Holmes attempted to use the victims’ ATM card and later destroyed the evidence. Detectives who interviewed Holmes following her arrest say that the defendant stole a videotape of her confession and tried to destroy it as well.

The Supreme Court has long kept an eye on the capital punishment system in Louisiana, a reason why Holmes’ lawyers were confident that her appeal would be heard by the high court. The decision to reject the appeal of Holmes, and those of thousands of other cases, came without explanation. Federal appeals on insider trading, First Amendment rights, parental consent, and abuse in the Catholic Church were also rejected Monday.

Although Holmes has no grounds for further direct federal appeals, she still has rights to state and federal post-conviction relief, which officials say will stay the execution for a number of years. The last execution in Louisiana was in 2002, and none have been scheduled since.

 

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