Ortiz v. United States

State: Missouri

Filed: 2010

Court: U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Overview: The briefs before the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, argued that the Courts must consider the consensus of the scientific community that only Mr. Ortiz’s adaptive deficits and not his adaptive strengths are relevant to an intellectual disability determination. The Arc also submitted a clemency letter to President Barack Obama requesting the commutation of Mr. Ortiz’s sentence.

Excerpt: “Like everyone else, individuals with intellectual disability differ substantially from one another. For each person with intellectual disability there will be things he or she cannot do but also many things he or she can do. Because the mixture of skill strengths and skill deficits varies widely among persons with intellectual disability, there is no clinically accepted list of common, ordinary strengths or abilities that preclude a diagnosis of intellectual disability. Thus, in assessing an individual’s adaptive behavior—the aspect of intellectual disability at issue in this case—the focus must be on deficits. Adaptive strengths are irrelevant to this analysis…Broad acceptance of the district court’s mistaken reasoning would deprive individuals with intellectual disability of the protections and supports to which they are entitled under state and federal law and the U.S. Constitution.”

Status: Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to grant review, President Obama commuted Mr. Ortiz’s sentence from death to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Case Documents

Eighth Circuit Brief

U.S. Supreme Court Brief

Clemency Letter

Related Media

Press Release: “Justice For Abelardo Arboleda Ortiz In the Final Days of a Presidency

Press Release: “The Arc on Commutation for Death Row Inmate Abelardo Arboleda Ortiz In the Final Days of Obama’s Presidency”