A Georgia law requiring that mentally retarded death penalty defendants, in order to avoid execution, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are retarded violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment, a judicial panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has found.

In issuing the opinion, the appellate panel reversed a 2003 Georgia Supreme Court ruling, finding instead that the state’s stringent standard of proof “is not an appropriate way to vindicate a mentally retarded offender’s constitutional right not to be put to death.”

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