A judge has thrown out the death sentence imposed on a man convicted of the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer more than two decades ago.
Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina ruled Friday that 50-year-old Edward Bracey had established below-average intellectual functioning as demonstrated by an IQ of 74.
The U.S. Supreme Court has barred as unconstitutional execution of anyone deemed by a state to be mentally disabled.
Bracey's sentence is now life in prison without possibility of parole in the 1991 murder of officer Daniel Boyle.
The 21-year-old rookie was shot and killed after stopping Bracey for driving a stolen car in North Philadelphia just before 3 a.m. on Feb. 4, 1991.
"He was obviously a wonderful son and a great kid. All he wanted to do was follow in our footsteps," his father, Pat Boyle, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The father and the rest of the slain officer's family are frustrated by the judge's decision.
"It's cheap, it's cowardly and it's demeaning," he said. "This is a miscarriage of justice. It's outrageous."
Prosecutors were also upset over the change arguing that Bracey never demonstrated that he had a mental deficiency.
"I don't have any argument with the Supreme Court's decision that mentally retarded people can't be executed. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that our view is that in no way did the defendant prove that he was mentally retarded," said Philadelphia First Assistant District Attorney Edward McCann.
John J. McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, called the decision "an absolute disgrace" and said Boyle's relatives were "obviously upset."
McNesby told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Bracey had "pulled the wool over the judge's eyes."
However, not everyone disagrees with the judge's ruling.
Marc Bookman, a death penalty opponent and executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, says someone in Bracey's situation should not be killed by the state.
"People that are intellectually disabled are less culpable of the crime that they commit. It doesn't mean that they're not to be punished. It doesn't mean they're not to be convicted. It simply means they are not to be executed," he said.