Condemned killer Kevan Brumfield, who claims he is mentally retarded and cannot be executed for the 1993 ambush killing of Baton Rouge police Cpl. Betty Smothers, will have his case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March, the court said Friday.
U.S. District Judge James Brady ruled in 2012 that Brumfield is mentally retarded and ineligible to be put to death, but a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Brady’s ruling in January.
“We’re asking them (the Supreme Court) to reverse the 5th Circuit. The 5th Circuit got it wrong,” Brumfield’s attorney, Nicholas Trenticosta, said Friday.
East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns, who prosecuted Brumfield and argued last year before the 5th Circuit panel in Texas, said she’s confident the nation’s top court will let the appellate court ruling stand.
“I don’t take that as a bad sign in any way,” Burns said of the high court’s decision to hear Brumfield’s appeal. “I’m excited.”
The Supreme Court barred the execution of mentally retarded people in 2002.
The 5th Circuit panel said in its ruling that state District Judge Richard Anderson considered both the intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior prongs of Louisiana’s test for mental retardation and properly denied Brumfield’s request for an evidentiary hearing on his mental retardation claim.
The panel said there was no reason for Brady to conduct the hearing he later held in 2010 on Brumfield’s mental retardation claim.
Psychologists Victoria Swanson and Ricardo Weinstein testified in Brady’s courtroom that Brumfield is mentally retarded, while forensic psychiatrist Robert Blanche, clinical psychologist Donald Hoppe and clinical neuropsychologist John Bolter testified Brumfield is not retarded.
Smothers, 36, was working an off-duty security job when she was fatally shot shortly after midnight on Jan. 7, 1993, while driving a grocery store manager to a Jefferson Highway bank to make a night deposit. The manager, Kimen Lee, survived the attack despite being shot numerous times.
Henri Broadway, of Baton Rouge, also is on death row for his role in the Smothers killing. He is seeking a new trial.
Brumfield, who was convicted and sentenced to die in 1995, was accused of firing the bullets that killed Smothers. Broadway, who was tried after Brumfield in 1995, was accused of firing some of the shots that wounded Lee.
Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn, the oldest of Smothers’ six children, starred at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge and Florida State University.
Shortly after Brady’s ruling, Dunn said of Brumfield in a letter to The Advocate, “From my view, his use of ‘mental retardation’ as a defense is offensive and morally wrong.”