An 18-year old Texas teenager with "profound mental disabilities" was sentenced to 100 years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to five counts of sex abuse, including aggravated sexual assault, toward a 6-year-old neighbor, USAToday reported this morning.
The case is going to be appealed, according to the Dallas Morning News, with a number of points about the trial itself being questioned. The teenager, has an IQ of 47 and was found mentally retarded as a child. Yet his court-appointed defense lawyer, who had the burden of explaining the boy's disability to the judge and jury, didn't ask for special accommodations for him, such as a liaison who could've helped him understand what was happening in the court. Nor did he call any witnesses to testify as to his defendant's condition.
Jurors also told the Morning News that during their deliberations they repeatedly sent notes to Lamar County Judge Eric Clifford asking if there were any alternatives to prison, which, they say, "the judge didn't answer clearly."
“The sentence raises serious questions about how people with profound disabilities are prosecuted in Texas at a time when both state lawmakers and the U.S. Supreme Court are considering the appropriate punishment for people who are young, mentally disabled, or both,” the Morning News said.
The Morning News also related that the Texas legislature, last week, sent a bill to Texas Governor Rick Perry that would require law enforcement officials taking someone into custody with obvious mental disabilities, to inform court magistrates within 72 hours, who would then have to order a local mental health or mental retardation expert assess the individual and allow that assessment to be considered during the trial’s sentencing phase. ( Bill Analysis ) (See our two previous posts Here and Here)