Ohio makes case to US Supreme Court on transporting death row inmate with bullet in his brain
In Twyford v. Shoop, lawyers suggest bullet fragments could impact Raymond Twyford’s competency and want the inmate tested in a hospital.
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The State of Ohio is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule lower courts that said a death row inmate needs to be taken to a hospital for brain scans.
Raymond Twyford’s lawyers said Twyford attempted suicide he was 13, and it left him with bullet fragments in his brain. They want to know whether the fragments impact Twyford’s competency, something they said was never investigated during the original trial.
Twyford was convicted of murder in 1993, and lower courts have ruled that Ohio needs to transport him to a hospital for the neurological testing.
During Tuesday’s oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said that the lower court rulings step on state’s rights and puts the public in danger.
Flowers argued, “The injury we’re suffering is the sovereign interference with our safe operation of our prisons. That we cannot remedy on appeal, plus the threat to public safety. Once we transport him, we have sustained all of those harms. There’s no unringing that bell after the fact.”
Raymond Tyword’s attorneys said that Twyford has been transported between the prison he’s being housed at, and the prison-style medical facility where the brain scan would be done, 16 times without incident. They also said the jury that convicted Twyford may not have had all the evidence.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the first to question Twyford attorney David O’Neil.
Justice Thomas asked, “Do you know whether you’re going to use whatever it is you find from the scan in a Habeas proceeding?”
O’Neil said, “The jury never heard any evidence about the effect of a point blank gunshot wound on Mr. Twyford’s cognition and therefore his culpability. They didn’t hear anything about that because counsel never bothered to investigate it.”
George Washington law professor Paul Schiff Berman said the Supreme Court’s conservative makeup may be the biggest factor in an eventual ruling. He said, “This may be yet another case that makes it harder and harder and harder for inmates to be able to challenge what they deem to be an unconstitutional conviction.”
The court is expected to rule on the case later this summer.
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