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U.S. Supreme Court orders new hearing in Alabama death row inmate’s case

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James McWilliams was convicted of raping and killing a convenience store clerk in Tuscaloosa, he was sentenced to death for the 1984 rape, robbery and murder of Patricia Vallery Reynolds.

The Supreme Court ruled today that McWillaims was deprived of an independent mental health expert to help him try and keep him off a death sentence at his trial more than 30 years ago. The court voted 5-4 to send the case involving James McWilliams, 59, back to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

During sentencing, McWilliams and his mother testified he had suffered blows to the head as a child. His attorneys asked the trial judge at the sentencing hearing for a continuance to allow them to consider the findings. The judge didn’t believe it, saying he found evidence McWilliams was faking.  McWilliams was sentenced to death.

Most states, including Alabama, now provide an expert specifically for the defense team .

Right now, there’s  182 inmates on death row in Alabama. McWilliams has currently served the fifth-longest time on the state’s death row. He moved to death row on October 9, 1986.

The state has put 3 men to death since Jan. 2016. Alabama does not currently have future executions scheduled.

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