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Chuck E. Cheese Killer Nathan Dunlap Gets Another Appeal

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 20, 2012 4:12 PM

Chuck E. Cheese Killer Nathan Dunlap is once again asking the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop his execution.

Though it’s been 15 years since Colorado last executed a death row inmate, according to The Denver Post, Dunlap is in the final stages of his guaranteed appeals. Last year, the Tenth Circuit rejected Dunlap’s presumptive and actual prejudice challenges that the district court should have granted his motion for a change of venue, and should have applied the Skilling factors to his case. Now, he’s arguing mental illness and ineffective counsel.

Dunlap, the longest-serving inmate on Colorado's death row, may have received some unexpected help from the Supreme Court this week. Monday, the Court granted certiorari in Tibbals v. Carter, which will determine whether capital prisoners possess a "right to competence" in federal habeas proceedings under Rees v. Peyton, and whether a federal district court can order an indefinite stay of a federal habeas proceeding under Rees, reports SCOTUSblog.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals hasn't been particularly sympathetic to Dunlap in the past, so will this appeal be any different? Perhaps.

The Supreme Court stopped states from executing the insane with its 1986 decision, Ford v. Wainwright. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the mentally retarded cannot be executed. During the 2012 term, the Court will consider whether a mentally ill capital prisoner is entitled to special consideration under the law.

With yesterday's grant in mind, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals could postpone a decision in Dunlap's case until the Nine have a chance to rule on Tibbals.

What do you think? Will the Tenth Circuit wait for a High Court decision before deciding the Chuck E. Cheese Killer's fate?

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