Court Cases By Federal

Castro v. State of Oklahoma
71 F. 3d 1502 (10th Cir. 1995)

Castro was convicted in state court of murder, and sentenced to death. He brought a federal habeas corpus action seeking to overturn his sentence.

The court of appeals held that the defendant was entitled to the assistance of a court-appointed and paid for medical expert. Castro argued that he needed such assistance to develop evidence regarding five different problems, one of which was fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect. (71 F. 2d at 1510). The specific type of expert he sought was a psychiatrist. (A psychiatrist undoubtedly would have been better qualified to evaluate several of Castro's other problems than to evaluate possible FAS/FAE).

The court concluded that a criminal defendant was entitled to such experts provided that he had made a substantial showing that his mental state was in dispute and was relevant to the outcome of the case, either to the guilt determination or to the sentence. (71 F. 3d at 1513-14). Although one medical expert had been appointed, the court concluded he was probably not qualified to assess the medical issues in the case. (71 F. 3d at 1515).

The court concluded that more complete information about Castro's mental health might have persuaded the jury to vote against the death penalty. (71 F. 3d at 1516).