Stories of Hope

Saving an intellectually impaired man from life in prison

John* was aloof and untrusting at first. He opened up about nothing. He had never been charged with a crime and did not understand what he was facing. When confronted with overwhelming evidence of his involvement as a co-conspirator in murder, he offered only denials without explanation. Our first step would be to try and save this man from the death penalty.

During jail visits it became clear that, while John was engaging and appeared otherwise normal, he mispronounced simple words. He also struggled with simple concepts and  grew frustrated with legal conversations. But John was also very genuine and compassionate. He often said he was disappointed with himself and how his life turned out. This was not an evil person.

John eventually agreed to a forensic psychological evaluation. We learned he was significantly cognitively impaired and had been his entire life. This disability, along with family and social pressures, made him unable to weigh consequences and make decisions.

As a result, John often resorted to pleasing others without thinking of himself. It made him an easy target for his co-defendant, who acted as a friend and promised money in exchange for being involved in a murder conspiracy. John may not have been innocent, but he certainly did not deserve to die.

This information was taken to the prosecution. We negotiated to allow John to plead guilty to a lesser, non-death-eligible offense in exchange for full cooperation against the other co-defendants. John was the least culpable of the group and genuinely regretted being involved.

The prosecution agreed. At age 34, John ended up with a sentence of 27 years in prison. The other co-defendant received life imprisonment. John would serve his time and still be able to reunite with the children he loved so dearly.  In the end, this was a just result for all involved.

* All names changed to protect our client’s privacy.