Death Penalty

Georgia Set to Execute Mentally Disabled Man Whose Lawyer was Drinking Heavily Throughout His Trial

|

Tonight at 7 p.m. EST, Georgia is scheduled to execute Robert Wayne Holsey, a man whose I.Q. is around 70. Hosley was represented by a lawyer who admitted to drinking heavily throughout Hosley's trial. 

In 1996, Holsey robbed a convenience store, then shot and killed a pursuing police officer. He was convicted of armed robbery and murder and sentenced to death in 1997.

His attorney, Andy Prince, later testified that during Holsey's trial, he would go back to his hotel room in the evenings and drink until he "couldn't drink anymore." According to Prince, he was consuming roughly a quart of vodka every night—the equivalent of 21 shots. "What I considered doing fine at the time was just barely getting by. I shouldn't have been representing anybody in that case," Prince has said.

Prince later voluntarily forfeited his law license and was sentenced to serve three years in prison for stealing over $100,000 from one of his clients.

Eventually, a Georgia Superior Court judge would rule that Holsey's lawyer failed to present mitigating evidence that may have led to a different outcome, including facts about Holsey's intellectual disability and his violent family history. Georgia requires a unanimous jury vote to impose the death penalty; if this evidence had been presented, perhaps one or more jurors may have voted otherwise. The judge vacated Holsey's death sentence and ordered him to be resentenced.

However, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed that decision and ruled Holsey had failed to show that the outcome would have been different if his lawyer had presented this additional evidence. In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled Holsey had not proved the Georgia Supreme Court's decision was "unreasonable."

In 2002, the United States Supreme Court barred the execution of inmates with mental disabilities, but left the states to determine who qualifies as mentally sound. This year, the United States Supreme Court invalidated a Florida statute that allowed inmates with an I.Q. of 71 or higher to be executed. In their Hall v. Florida ruling, the court argued Florida's rigid cutoff excluded the state from considering other evidence that may prove an inmate's disability.

Lawyers for Holsey argue his I.Q. is around 70, and say he never rose above a fourth grade level of intellectual functioning. His prison records, they argue, further document his mental disability.

But in Georgia, state law requires Holsey to prove he's mentally disabled "beyond a reasonable doubt." That's the strictest standard in the nation and extremely difficult to meet. Holsey filed an appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court that argued Georgia's standard is unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Hall v. Florida. This afternoon, however, the Georgia Supreme Court denied that appeal along with a motion for a stay of execution, thus clearing the way for Holsey to be executed this evening unless the United States Supreme Court intervenes.

All inmates should have the right to be represented by lawyers not completely inebriated during trial. Even those who support the death penalty should be able to concede that allowing a mentally disabled man to be executed is a barbaric act that flies in the face of justice. 

Update: The United States Supreme Court denied Holsey's application for a stay of execution as well as his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He was executed by the state of Georgia at 10:51 p.m. Tuesday night. 

NEXT: I knew patent law was hard, but . . .

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I don’t see having a low IQ as being a reason to withhold execution. I believe even a fourth grader knows not to rob and murder. Psychotic to the point of having no idea what is going, sure. I oppose the death penalty not because I’m soft on crime, but because I don’t trust the justice system to be competent. I support a shop owner shooting an active robber, because you know the right piece of shit got shot.

  2. “”””including facts about Holsey’s intellectual disability and his violent family history.”””

    What disability, he seemed to be competent enough to have a previous conviction of assault and armed robbery, he then by himself robbed another store, drove off in his red Ford, when stopped by police he was competent enough to kill the officer. Holsey then went to his sisters house and contacted his girlfriend to order her to bring a blue Jeep Cherokee rather than her red automobile because the police were looking for a red car. He then went and drive past the murder site to check it out. He then requested her to drive to his mothers house where he had a police scanner but she refused and instead he returned to his sisters house where he was caught

    Seems to me he knew what he was doing, actively trying to avoid capture and even giving orders.

    http://www.murderpedia.org/mal…..-wayne.htm

    As to his violent family history, that is his problem, not the publics.

  3. “a man whose I.Q. is around 70 and whose lawyer admitted was drinking heavily throughout his trial.”

    means something completely different than

    “Mentally Disabled Man Whose Lawyer was Drinking Heavily Throughout His Trial”

    Which one was drinking heavily through the trial???

    I won’t donate to the webathon until Reason hires a proofreader.

    1. My mistake! The intro’s fix’d now.

      1. “fix’d”?

        Are you going to start putting your articles out in iambic pentameter now?

    2. You’re hired! Your pay is $-X.XX, where X is your webathon donation.

    3. But wait… What difference if the lawyer was on trial and heavily drinking?

  4. 70 is a high IQ for Georgia. I mean, shreek thinks he’s smart and his IQ is demonstrably around 73.

    1. Surely not that high.

    2. Usually drunk and mentally disabled will suffice for getting you elected to high office here in Georgia – our Supreme Court is evidence of that.

      1. Actually, that’s Texas where falling off the line you’re walking during the field sobriety test isn’t enough evidence… if you’re a drunk judge.

  5. shot and killed a pursuing police officer.

    Self defense. His attorney should have claimed that he feared the po-po would have gone all Eric Garner on him.

    1. “I feared for my life”

      If it’s a valid defense for a cop, it’s a valid defense for everyone.

  6. Only one standard deviation below the mean. Or is that a hatefact?

  7. Save the prisoner, execute the lawyer.

  8. In 1996, Holsey robbed a convenience store, then shot and killed a pursuing police officer. He was convicted of armed robbery and murder and sentenced to death in 1997.

    His attorney, Andy Prince, later testified that during Holsey’s trial, he would go back to his hotel room in the evenings and drink until he “couldn’t drink anymore.”

    I would have drunk into a stupor if I had to defend a guy like that.

    Honestly, I fail to see what difference it makes if the lawyer was drunk or sober. If the guy killed a cop while committing a robbery, it is as clear-cut as it gets. That does not mean the State gets to kill him, but a drunk lawyer is no justification to evade your responsibility.

  9. *In 1996, Holsey robbed a convenience store, then shot and killed a pursuing police officer*

    Thereby qualifying for immediate enshrinement in the REASON Cop-Hate Hall of Fame!

    I can see why you are shilling for this dude to get out of getting spiked/sat down in old sparky/whatever…but who knew someone with such a low IQ could commit such a string of crimes and take evasive action when pursued?

    Anti-death penalty nuts will just clutch any old straw to keep these scumbags alive, won’t they?

  10. Either Robert Wayne Holsey is a responsible moral agent able to control his own actions, or he is not. If the former, he’s a murderer, and his execution is just. If the latter, he is an active danger to everyone in contact with him (including other prisoners) and should be put down, just like you would a similarly dangerous and uncontrolled rabid dog. Pick whichever level of competence you think Mr. Holsey really is, then get out of the way of the execution.

  11. Consider it a late, late term abortion.

  12. Good for Georgia. Not only do they get rid of a violent thug, but they rid the world of an idiot as well.

  13. “In 1996, Holsey robbed a convenience store, then shot and killed a pursuing police officer. He was convicted of armed robbery and murder and sentenced to death in 1997.”

    He should have been executed in 1997. The travesty is that this worthless piece of human excrement is still alive. Execute him immediately.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.