St. Louis Public Radio News
9:18 am
Wed January 27, 2010

Missouri Supreme Court overturns death sentence of 'mentally retarded' man

St. Louis – The Missouri Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of a southeast Missouri man after determining he is mentally disabled.

Andrew Lyons had been sentenced to death for killing his estranged girlfriend and her mother more than 17 years ago in Cape Girardeau.

On Tuesday, Missouri's high court determined Lyons is "mentally retarded" and reduced his sentence to life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Bridgette Harris.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the mentally retarded may not be executed.

This is the second reprieve Lyons has received. In 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court reduced his death sentence to life in prison for the slaying of Evelyn Sparks, his girlfriend's mother, because he had been sentenced by a judge instead of a jury.

Meanwhile, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is seeking execution dates for two convicted killers.

Koster asked the state Supreme Court to schedule executions for Joseph Franklin and Allen Nicklasson.

Franklin, known as a white supremacist, was sentenced to die for the 1977 sniper killing of a man outside a synagogue in suburban St. Louis.

Nicklasson was convicted in the 1994 killing of an Excelsior Springs businessman who stopped to help when Nicklasson's car broke down on Interstate 70.

A federal appeals court cleared the way last year for Missouri to resume scheduling executions when it rejected a lawsuit by eight inmates over the training and competence of the state's execution team.