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Judge: Philly officer's killer can't be executed

Edward Bracey was convicted in the shooting death of 21-year-old Officer Danny Boyle in 1991

By Robert Moran and Mike Newall
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia judge, citing a constitutional restriction against executing people defined as mentally retarded, has vacated the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a city police officer in 1991.

Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina ruled Friday that the death penalty cannot be enforced against Edward Bracey, convicted in the shooting death of 21-year-old Officer Danny Boyle in 1991.

Bracey's sentence is now life without parole.

Sarmina wrote that Bracey had established that his intelligence quotient was 74, and that he possesses " 'major deficiencies' in adaptive behavior, as demonstrated by his significant limitations in, at least, (1) communication, (2) functional academics, (3) self-direction, and (4) social/interpersonal skills."

Also, Sarmina wrote, Bracey had established that he was "mentally retarded" before his 18th birthday.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the death penalty is unconstitutional for anyone defined by a state as mentally retarded.

The ruling was based on "evolving standards of decency" that have found "mentally retarded people are not sufficiently culpable," said Marc Bookman, director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation and former public defender.

Sarmina did not order a new trial or resentencing, so Bracey will remain in prison for the rest of his life, Bookman said.

Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams, could not be reached for comment Monday night.

John J. McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, called Sarmina's decision "an absolute disgrace." Bracey "pulled the wool over the judge's eyes," he said.

McNesby said Boyle's family had learned about the decision Monday evening and were "obviously upset."

"I don't know what planet she's living on," McNesby said of Sarmina.

Bracey was convicted of first-degree murder in March 1992 and sentenced to death later that year.

Pennsylvania has not had an execution since 1999.

The Districty Attorney's Office said it is considering appealing the judge's decision, noting that in 1998 Edward Bracey, convcited of killing Officer Danny Boyle, presented three witnesses who testified he was not mentally retarded.

Copyright 2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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