Zane Floyd

The Law School’s three research centres; The Centre for American Legal Studies, The Centre for Human Rights, and The Centre for Law, Science and Policy submitted an amicus curiae brief in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on behalf of Zane Floyd in support of a rehearing due to the adjudicative deficiencies in considering the implications of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder for his death sentence.  

We presented the legal parameters for the recognition of a medical condition, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, in capital proceedings in the U.S. The Directors of the Law School’s three centres (Dr Anne Richardson Oakes, (CALS); Professor Jon Yorke (CHR), and Dr Sarah Cooper (CLSP), filed this brief collectively in 2020, in conjunction with the Counsel of Record, Lisa Rasmussen, Law Office of Lisa Rasmussen, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101.

In the brief we noted the comparative political, healthcare, and legal perspectives:

In the United Kingdom (U.K.), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a recognized term used to describe a range of life-long conditions caused by the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy. Amici present this position in three parts. First, the recognition of FASD by scientific and healthcare communities in the U.K. Second, the recognition of FASD by U.K. politicians. Third, the recognition of FASD by the U.K. judiciary in civil and criminal legal proceedings, and in criminal justice-focused scholarship. The U.K. observes International FASD Awareness Day, which falls on September 9 each year.

Upon this basis we presented our arguments that the issue of FASD had hitherto been inadequately reviewed in Floyd’s case and we therefore recommended the Court of Appeals to consider:

  • Information regarding FASD should be collected as early as possible in the justice process. There is a suggestion that prosecuting lawyers should ask defense lawyers in advance of the trial whether they have considered FASD.57
  • Where it has already been diagnosed, FASD should be raised by parties appearing before a court.
  • FASD should be regarded as a disability that may be relevant to issues of both culpability and sentencing.
  • A diagnosis of FASD may require adaptation of interrogation and examination procedures.
  • Failure to raise FASD may be a successful appeal point: see Pora v. The Queen (2015).58
  • Sentencing conditions, including probation orders for FASD sufferers should be carefully tailored for the individual and his or her level of capacity.

The legal brief for this case can be found here.