Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, April 17, 2015

Conner: Georgia Death Row inmate not intellectually disabled

In Conner v. GDCP Warden, No. 13-13928 (April 15, 2015), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Georgia death-row inmate who claimed that he was intellectual disabled and therefore not subject to the death penalty. The Court held that the district court did not err, after holding an evidentiary hearing, in finding that Conner was not intellectually disabled. The Court noted the district court’s finding that Conner’s IQ hovered around 80, and otherwise did not have the lack of intellectual functioning, or lack of adaptive skills, associated with the intellectually disabled. Turning to Conner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the Court noted that Conner himself instructed his lawyer at the sentencing phase not to present mitigation evidence. The Court found no support for that he would have allowed trial counsel to present mitigation evidence, and his willingness to do so at postconviction proceedings did not, without more, suffice. During the guilt phase of Conner’s trial, the prosecutor told the jury that he had practiced criminal law for seven years, that as district attorney he had prosecuted nine murder cases, but he had never sought the death penalty until Conner’s case. Conner’s counsel objected, and the trial court gave a curative instruction. The Georgia Supreme Court found the remark improper, but did not compel reversal. The Court did not find this resolution of this issue contrary to well-established law.