BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A convicted cop killer who has spent the last two decades on death row is one step closer to avoiding execution, after a request for a rehearing was denied Monday.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the request by the 19th District Attorney's Office to appeal a ruling by an appeals court judge in December 2015.
A 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge upheld a federal court decision that Kevan Brumfield could not be executed because he was determined to be mentally disabled at the time of the crime.
Brumfield was sentenced to death for the 1993 killing of Betty Smothers Dunn, a Baton Rouge police officer and the mother of NFL player Warrick Dunn.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled anyone who is intellectually disabled cannot put to death.
After that ruling, Brumfield's defense claimed he was mentally handicapped and, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty. That claim began a decade's worth of hearing and appeals that traveled through state and federal courts, eventually landing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Originally, a state judge ruled Brumfield was not mentally deficient and could be put to death, but a federal judge overturned that decision.
The district attorney's request was for a rehearing to determine if Brumfield was intellectually disabled.
"I believe the death penalty was appropriate then, I believe it was appropriate today. I don't agree what so ever with the claim of intellectual disability," said District Attorney Hillar Moore.
Moore said the only path forward is to make one more appeal for a rehearing to the Supreme Court. However, he said the requirements for that request are very specific. His office has 25 days to make the request.
"My office is reviewing the court's denial and will confer with our staff and the Smothers family before making a decision on seeking a rehearing. Today's decision is yet another blow to the Smothers family and in my opinion our community for the loss of Cpl. Smothers," Moore said.
If the DA does not decide to file another request or if the request is denied again, Moore said the case would be final and Brumfield would be resentenced by a state judge.
Brumfield's attorney Nick Trenticosta said he was not surprised the DA's request was denied. He added that he spoke with Brumfield Monday and that he was relieved by this latest development.
"We look forward to a speedy resentencing and look forward to the day he leaves death row," Trenticosta said.
Below is the statement from Betty Smothers' family regarding Monday's legal ruling: