The U.S. Supreme Court has come down in favor of an Alabama inmate who argued he didn’t have a mental health expert at his trial to help him try and avoid a death sentence.
The justices divided 5 to 4 yesterday, ultimately siding with Alabama death row inmate James McWilliams. He did not have an independent mental health expert on his side when he was convicted of raping and killing a convenience store clerk in Tuscaloosa.
Supreme Court justices had previously decided that indigent defendants whose mental health might be a factor in the charges they face have a right to expert mental health evaluation. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer says McWilliams’ mental health assistance “fell far short” of what that decision required.
McWilliams’ case will be remanded to a lower court for further review. No execution date has been set. The decision could also affect two inmates currently on death row in Arkansas.