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Mental Health Status May Save Convicted Murderer From Death

Posted October 29, 2004

— Abner Nicholson is on death row for murdering two people. Nicholson's attorneys argued for their client's life at a hearing Friday in Wilson.

Attorneys told a judge Nicholson's IQ is below 70, the threshold for mental retardation. The judge saw and heard testimony from Nicholson's family and from mental health experts. If the judge is convinced by Friday's arguments, Nicholson will get off death row.

"He has deficits in certain recognized adaptive function levels. Even the experts agree he had at least two, and some of our experts said four," defense attorney Jim Maxwell said.

Nicholson has been on death row for the murder of his estranged wife, Gloria, and former Sharpsburg police Chief Wayne Hathaway. Hathaway's family sat through Nicholson's original trial and Friday's competency hearing.

Monica Worsham, Hathaway's sister, said she does not want to see Nicholson's life spared, despite his background.

"As far as his adaptive skills, to me, that when you are only an eighth-grader and you didn't go to school half the time, there are really a lot of things you can't do," she said.

Prosecutor Bill Wolfe presented evidence showing that Nicholson held a job and was able to read and write. He declined to talk to WRAL about the case. Nicholson was not in the courtroom for Friday's testimony.

Judge Frank Brown said he may take a month to decide if Nicholson's death sentence will be changed to life in prison because of the mental illness issue.

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