High court orders mental hearing in death row case

(Appeal Capitol Bureau) Robert Ybarra, on death row 24 years for rape and murder, will get a hearing to determine whether he is mentally retarded.

If so, that would prevent Ybarra's execution under a U.S. Supreme Court opinion saying the mentally retarded cannot be executed.

Ybarra was sentenced to die in 1981 for raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl. Nancy Griffin was taken into the desert outside of Ely, raped, and set on fire. She was found naked and wandering in the desert, but identified her assailant before she died in a Salt Lake City hospital.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Monday ordered the district court in Ely to conduct a hearing and rule on Ybarra's mental competence.

This was his fifth appeal to the Nevada high court seeking to overturn convictions for first-degree murder, kidnapping, battery and sexual assault. The other issues were all rejected by the high court.

But it's the first time the issue of mental competence has been raised in his case.


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