Monday, September 28, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Death Penalty Case

/PRNewswire/ -- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the nation's leading preventable cause of mental retardation, will be front and center when the Supreme Court opens its new term this week. Tomorrow, on Tuesday, September 29, the court will consider whether to take up Holmes v. Louisiana, the case of Brandy Holmes, a 29-year-old woman with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome currently on death row in Louisiana. She and a codefendant were convicted of a 2003 murder in Louisiana. Brandy's lead attorney is noted Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree.

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) submitted a friend of the court brief arguing that Brandy's prenatal alcohol induced brain damage and deficits should be seen as mitigating factors in keeping with previous court rulings.

"Brandy has a hallmark case of FAS. Her mother testified that she drank throughout her pregnancy, and in fact named her daughter after her favorite drink," states NOFAS President Tom Donaldson. "Thirty-three states and the federal government don't execute persons with mental retardation - 16 more than only ten years ago. Evolving standards of decency place Brandy's case squarely within the precedent established by the court and society with regard to intellectual disabilities and the ultimate punishment."

Donaldson argues that there needs to be a renewed emphasis on public health messages about the risk of alcohol during pregnancy, "It's time to stop playing Russian roulette when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy."

Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading known preventable cause of intellectual disabilities and neurobehavioral disorders in the developed world affecting as many as 40,000 newborns each year in the United States alone, more cases annually than autism or other commonly known birth defects such as Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida and sudden infant death syndrome, COMBINED.

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