Indiana officials drop execution bid in 7-year-old’s death

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — Indiana prosecutors have quietly dropped efforts seeking the execution of an Ohio inmate for her role in killing a 7-year-old girl in 1984, citing the inmate’s intellectual disability.

The Lake County prosecutor and the Indiana attorney general’s office signed an agreement last month withdrawing a demand for the execution of 56-year-old Debra Denise Brown, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported .

Brown and Alton Coleman received death sentences for killing Tamika Turks of Gary, Indiana, and for slayings in Ohio. For more than 50 days, the couple committed crimes across six states, leaving eight people dead. Coleman was executed in Ohio in 2002, while Brown’s Ohio sentence was commuted to life in prison on grounds that she was mentally disabled.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings prohibit Brown’s execution because of her disability, said Melissa Gustafson, a spokeswoman for the Indiana attorney general.

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“The modification was based on evidence developed throughout this case that Brown is likely intellectually disabled, a condition formerly known as mental retardation,” she said.

Brown was ordered to serve 140 years in prison in addition to a sentence of life without parole. She’s currently an inmate at the Dayton Correctional Institution in Ohio for two killings in that state.

LaVerne Turks, Tamika Turks’ mother, said she’s angry and hurt she wasn’t notified about the decision. She said attorney Thomas Vanes, who had won Brown’s death sentence conviction in 1986, told the family about the agreement at Thanksgiving.

“Debra Brown was right there with (Coleman), committing the same crimes. She bears the same responsibility for them, and she should share his punishment,” LaVerne Turks said.

Gustafson said the attorney general’s office believed the families of the victims had been contacted by the Lake County prosecutor’s office.

“The (Office of Attorney General) deeply regrets that they were not notified in advance, because we take seriously the dignity of victims of all crime and our responsibility to ensure that dignity within the criminal justice system,” she said.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com

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