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Va. death row inmate will get hearing on fitness for execution

A Virginia death row inmate will get another chance to prove he is mentally retarded and therefore cannot be executed.

The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday sent the case of William Joseph Burns of Baker, W.Va., back to Shenandoah County Circuit Court for a new hearing on his retardation claim.

Burns was sentenced to death for raping and killing his mother-in-law in Virginia in 1998.

Burns' lawyers raised the retardation claim after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional. Virginia's justices unanimously ruled that a Shenandoah judge prematurely threw out his claim.

-- Associated Press

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 15, 2010; 1:47 PM ET
Categories:  Death Penalty , Virginia  
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