LITTLE ROCK — A Benton County circuit judge erred in ruling that a death-row inmate was entitled to be re-sentenced because his lawyer made inadequate closing arguments at his trial, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

LITTLE ROCK — A Benton County circuit judge erred in ruling that a death-row inmate was entitled to be re-sentenced because his lawyer made inadequate closing arguments at his trial, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.


The state’s top court overturned the circuit judge’s ruling granting a new hearing for Brandon Lacy, 37, who was convicted of capital murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to die for the 2007 slaying of Randall Walker.


Lacy argued in a post-trial petition that he had received ineffective representation. The lead defense attorney in his trial, Steve Harper, admitted during a hearing on the petition that his closing argument in the sentencing phase of the trial was "one of the worst I’ve ever given" because he was "physically, mentally, emotionally exhausted" at the time.


The hearing judge ordered a new sentencing hearing for Lacy based on Harper’s admission, and the state filed an appeal. In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Supreme Court said the judge erred in ordering re-sentencing based on a subjective analysis. The court sent the case back to circuit court for new proceedings on Lacy’s petition.


"On remand, the court should use an objective legal standard when assessing whether Lacy received effective representation," the Supreme Court said in an opinion written by Justice Rhonda Wood.


The court also rejected a separate appeal by Lacy arguing that he received ineffective representation because his lawyers failed to argue as an affirmative defense that he had a mental disease or defect, even though there was testimony that he had an alcohol problem and experienced memory lapses.


The Supreme Court noted that at least three psychologists who examined Lacy did not diagnose him with a mental disease or defect, and that although one psychologist did diagnose Lacy with a cognitive disorder, that doctor’s methodology was criticized by an expert for the state. Also, no expert testified that Lacy could not remember the murder, the court said.