U.S. Supreme Court reverses death sentence in local murder case

Michael Bies (Courtesy Ohio Department of Corrections)
Michael Bies (Courtesy Ohio Department of Corrections)

COLUMBUS, OH - The U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated the death sentence of Michael Bies for the 1992 murder of Aaron Raines, a 10-year-old boy from Cincinnati.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit set aside the death sentence last year, ruling that Bies could not be executed because he had established that he was mentally retarded in an earlier court proceeding.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray appealed, arguing that no determination about mental retardation had yet been made by the state courts in the Bies case.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument on April 27 and issued its opinion this morning.

All nine justices agreed with Cordray.

Bies and an accomplice lured Raines into an abandoned building and bludgeoned him to death.  A Hamilton County jury convicted Bies of aggravated murder, attempted rape and kidnapping, and further recommended a sentence of death.

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and death sentence in 1996.

In a 2002 case, Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution prohibits the execution of mentally retarded defendants.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit later ordered that Bies' death sentence be set aside because the Ohio Supreme Court briefly mentioned the mental retardation issue in one of its earlier opinions in the Bies case.

In its opinion issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear its agreement with the arguments posed by Cordray's office, stating, "(r)ecourse first to Ohio's courts is just what this Court envisioned in remitting to the States responsibility for implementing the Atkins decision."

To read the complete U.S. Supreme Court opinion, click here.

The Supreme Court's decision returns this case to the Hamilton County courts, which will now conduct a hearing, take evidence, and issue a finding on Bies' mental capacity.  If the courts determine that Bies is mentally retarded, they must set aside his death sentence.