Hearing Ordered in Foster Appeal

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In February, the Mississippi Supreme Court was split 4-4 to uphold the trial court's ruling that Ron Chris Foster is not mentally retarded. Foster's lawyers appealed, saying a split court should not decide a death penalty case.

On Thursday, the justices, in a in a 6 to 1 decision, reversed that ruling and ordered a Lowndes County judge to conduct a hearing into Foster's mental condition. Foster was 17 when he killed George Shelton, a Lowndes County convenience store clerk in 1989.

Foster has been on death row since his conviction in 1991 by a Lauderdale County jury, which heard the case on a change of venue.

Foster's lawyers contend he has an IQ of 62, below the threshold of what is considered normal intelligence.

Writing for the court, Justice Bill Waller, Jr., said the Lowndes County judge was to follow the dictates laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in a Virginia death row/mental retardation case.

Waller said the trial judge will follow the American Psychiatric Association's definition that an intelligence quotient score of 70 is the limit of retardation.