Local News

Death-Row Inmates Trying To Get Second Chance At Life

Posted February 1, 2002 11:31 a.m. EST

— Hundreds of death-row inmates in the state are trying to get a second chance at life.

The inmates are doing so under a new state law, which states the mentally retarded cannot be executed, but the last day for them to file the claim was Thursday.

Ken Rose, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Death Penalty Litigation, said nearly 40 of the state's 213 death-row inmates have invoked the law. John Bason, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's office, said his office has not tracked the motions.

A judge ruled last month Sherman Skipper was mentally retarded before and during the 1990 killings of his girlfriend, Aileane Pittman, and her grandson, Nelson Fipps, so he reduced Skipper's sentence.

"Skipper made sure that he took away a lot of things from a lot of people," said J.R. Pittman, Aileane Pittman's son.

"I think it speaks more to the growing humanity to the people in our state that we've now recognized it's not right to use the power of the state to execute someone who has the mind of a child," said Bill Mills, Skipper's attorney.

A person is considered mentally retarded if they have an IQ of 70 or below, and evidence of retardation must be present before age 18. The person must also fail to function normally in at least two out of a list of 10 areas.