The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed a lower court ruling that Alvin Bernal Jackson was intellectually disabled and ineligible for the death penalty.

The opinion by Judge Bobby Shepherd of El Dorado and joined by Judge Lavenski Smith of Little Rock. Judge Steven Grasz dissented.

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In 1989, when Jackson was 19, he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Charles Colclasure. In 1996, he killed a prison guard, Scott Grimes, and was sentenced to death.

The 8th Circuit had twice previously reversed a district court finding that he was death penalty eligible and sent the case back for further consideration. The third time, the district court found he was ineligible, given an IQ in the 70s and other issues, and that decision was upheld today. The opinion recites Jackson’s troubled childhood; the changing court interpretation of what constitutes intellectual disability sufficient for a death penalty exemption, and some differences of experts in evaluating Jackson over the years. The dissenter said he feared the court was moving toward the “incremental deconstitutionalization” of capital punishment.

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