CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A federal appeals court overturned the death sentence of an Ohio convict because his defense lawyers failed to present evidence of a potential mental defect as mitigation -- that he had once shot himself in the head with a .38-caliber pistol. The court said the injury caused serious head trauma.
The 2-1 ruling by the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals says Abdul Haliym, also known as Wayne Frazier, must have a new sentencing hearing within six months or be set free. The court's majority said it was possible the showing of a functional brain impairment could have spared Haliym from a death sentence when his case went to trial in 1987 before a three-judge panel in Cuyahoga County. The appeals court questioned how thoroughly Frazier's defense team dug into his background.
"Perhaps most importantly, a more thorough investigation would have led to some evidence that petitioner (Haliym) had a mental defect. Petitioner's attorneys were on notice that petitioner had shot himself in the left temple, which should have strongly suggested the need to investigate whether petitioner had a mental defect. Instead of conducting this investigation, petitioner's attorneys put before the trial court Dr. (.XXX) 's testimony that none of the mental disorders with which petitioner was diagnosed could be considered a mental disease or defect, at least for psychiatric purposes."
The appeals court majority said there was "serious head trauma sustained" by the gunshot during the suicide attempt.
Abdul Saliym has been on Death Row for a March 27, 1987 stabbing at the apartment of Marcellus Williams and Joann Richard, who both died from their wounds. The apartment was located at 49th and Central in Cleveland. The appeals court said there was no question that Haliym committed murder and was guilty. The full-text of the decision is 35 pages long (pdf), including the dissent.