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Tenn. Killer Ruled Competent To Die

March 7, 2000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled 4-1 Monday that a condemned child murderer and rapist is mentally competent for execution, which would be the state’s first since 1960.

Robert Glen Coe, 43, is scheduled to die March 23 for the 1979 rape and murder of 8-year-old Cary Ann Medlin.

Last week, Coe’s attorneys argued before the Supreme Court that the state’s process for determining mental competency is flawed, and that Coe was denied his constitutional rights during a January competency hearing.

The justices ruled that Coe got a fair hearing and that he has the mental capacity to understand his impending execution and reason for it.

Justice Adolpho A. Birch dissented, based on his stance that the state’s competency process is flawed.

The justices cited expert testimony that Coe suffers some type of mental disorder, although the experts couldn’t agree on the extent or type of the disorder.

Regardless, the justices said, a finding of mental disorder ``does not automatically translate into a finding of incompetency to be executed.″

Under a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, states cannot execute inmates who are insane.

The competency issue was Coe’s last gasp in the state courts. He can, however, appeal to the federal courts to review the state’s process for determining mental competency. He also can appeal to Gov. Don Sundquist for clemency.

Coe’s attorneys said they planned to appeal.

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