Alvin Bernal Jackson, under a death sentence for fatally stabbing Arkansas prison guard Scott Grimes in 1995 while serving a life sentence for the murder of Charles Colclasure, is entitled to a hearing on whether he should not be executed because he is mentally retarded, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled today. A district judge in Arkansas earlier had rejected the request for a hearing.

The ruling turns on Arkansas’s three-prong test for determining retardation, a somewhat complex question. If you have time, I’d urge you to read through the opinion for the life history of a double killer, whose problems were evident in elementary school. He received special attention and continuing family support. All to no avail.

Jackson’s crimes were highlighted in a letter in the Times from the wife of Jackson’s first murder victim.