On March 14, a jury determined that the North Carolina man who strangled and decapitated his wife in 2011 is not mentally retarded as defined under state law.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez strangled his wife Maria to death and then decapitated her on Nov. 18, 2010. The 31-year-old woman was reported missing on Nov. 19, 2010; on Dec. 12, 2010, her body was found in a wooded area at the end of Williamsburg Road, nearby the house where Juan Rodriguez was staying while the couple was separated.
Her skull wasn’t discovered until May 29, 2013, in the Belews Creek area of Forsyth County.
On March 10, 2014, Juan Rodriguez, 38, was found guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
The question of Rodriguez’s state of mental being was a critical point in the case because both state law and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibit the execution of mentally retarded defendants. The only possible alternative sentencing for a conviction of first-degree murder is life in prison without parole.
Thus, if Rodriguez had been proven to be mentally retarded, he would have been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
State law states that a person is mentally retarded if his/her IQ is below 70; if he/she has significant difficulty performing basic functions, such as taking care of him/herself; and if his/her mental retardation began before age 18.
Rodriguez’s attorneys, Robert Campbell and Kim Stevens, presented evidence to indicate that Rodriguez was mentally retarded. They claimed that Rodriguez has an IQ of 61, and that growing up in impoverished, war-torn El Salvador hindered his intellectual development; these factors contributed to his becoming mildly mentally retarded before the age of 18.
The prosecution called forth Dr. Stephen Kramer, a forensic psychiatrist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, to rebut Rodriguez’s attorney’s claims. In his testimony, Kramer stated that Rodriguez was not, in fact, mentally retarded, nor was he intellectually disabled. Kramer also stated that Rodriguez did not have significant difficulty executing basic functions, such as paying bills.
The prosecutors – Assistant District Attorneys Patrick Weede, Mike Silver and Jennifer Martin – maintained that Rodriguez deserves the death penalty. Martin told Judge Stuart Albright of Forsyth Superior Court that it should take less than a day to present their evidence.
The jury presented its verdict that Rodriguez is not mentally retarded after four hours of deliberation.
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