Missouri Supreme Court stays Simmons execution

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday halted the pending execution of Christopher Simmons, issuing a stay until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a Virginia case expected to decide the legality of executing the mentally retarded.

The one-sentence order granting the stay comes a little more than a week before Simmons, 26, was scheduled to die by injection at the Potosi Correctional Center. The state Supreme Court had already pushed back the execution once, without explanation and apparently without prompting, moving it from early May to June 5.

Death penalty opponents have lobbied especially hard against executing Simmons, who was 17, a juvenile, when he pushed a suburban St. Louis woman from a bridge after robbing her home in 1993. It was not immediately clear why the state court would wait for the decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which was argued before the federal Supreme Court in February. That case involves convicted Virginia killer Daryl Renard Atkins, who has an IQ of 59, and the question of whether executing the mentally retarded violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Jennifer Brewer, Simmons' attorney, did not immediately return a call on Tuesday.

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