Bobby v. Bies, 556 U.S. 825 (Jun. 1, 2009)

Nearly ten years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) (Eighth Amendment bars execution of mentally retarded defendants), the defendant was tried for murder and other crimes. The defendant was found guilty and, after being instructed to weigh mitigating circumstances (including evidence of the defendant’s borderline mental retardation) against aggravating circumstances, the jury recommended a sentence of death. On direct review, the state supreme court noted that the defendant’s mild to borderline mental retardation deserved some weight in mitigation but affirmed the conviction. However, on federal habeas, the Sixth Circuit upheld a lower court order vacating the death sentence, concluding that double jeopardy precluded an Atkins hearing on the defendant’s mental retardation. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that double jeopardy did not preclude an Atkins hearing on mental retardation.