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US Supreme Court Allows Texas to Execute Mentally Disabled Inmate Based on Junk Science

UPDATE: The Associated Press reports, “Marvin Wilson, 54, was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m., 14 minutes after his lethal injection began at the state prison in Huntsville.” What does this mean for Atkins? I suppose time will tell…

The US Supreme Court has determined that Texas can move forward with this evening’s scheduled execution of Marvin Wilson, a mentally disabled man with an IQ of 61. Despite having been diagnosed as mentally retarded by a court-appointed neuropsychiatrist, Texas courts determined, based on nonclinical and highly subjective standards, that Wilson is not mentally retarded and therefore eligible for execution.

Wilson’s lethal injection will mark the 245th Texas inmate executed under Rick Perry. If that and his mental disability aren’t enough to disturb you, then consider the fact that Texas measures mental retardation using seven non-clinical standards  invented by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that have no basis whatsoever in science or clinical application. Even worse, these standards are based on Lennie Small, the fictional mentally impaired migrant farm worker from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Apparently, Texas finds science unsuitable for diagnosing a medical condition, but not a work of fiction. 

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Supreme Court banned the practice of executing the mentally disabled in a 2002 landmark ruling. Of course they left the process of administering the ruling to the discretion of states, which is why Texas thinks it can define what qualifies as mental retardation, doctors and science be damned.

The following is statement put out by Lee Kovarsky, Marvin Wilson’s Attorney, in response to the Supreme Court’s denial to Stay Wilson’s execution:

“We are gravely disappointed and profoundly saddened that the United States Supreme Court has refused to intervene to prevent tonight’s scheduled execution of Marvin Wilson, who has an I.Q. of 61, placing him below the first percentile of human intelligence. Ten years ago, this Court categorically barred states from executing people with mental retardation. Yet, tonight Texas will end the life of a man who was diagnosed with mental retardation by a court-appointed, board certified specialist.

“It is outrageous that the state of Texas continues to utilize unscientific guidelines, called the Briseño factors, to determine which citizens with intellectual disability are exempt from execution. The Briseño factors are not scientific tools, they are the decayed remainder of an uninformed stereotype that has been widely discredited by the nation’s leading groups on intellectual disability, including the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. That neither the courts nor state officials have stopped this execution is not only a shocking failure of a once-promising constitutional commitment, it is also a reminder that, as a society, we haven’t come quite that far in understanding how so many of those around us live with intellectual disabilities.”

-Lee Kovarsky, Attorney for Marvin Wilson

August 7, 2012

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One Comment
  1. Lynda M O #

    This tears my heart from my chest and leaves a hole so big a tornado ran thru it and left the margins undisturbed. Having been in the business of attending to and teaching the developmentally disabled all my life I am ashamed of the humans who allow this type of atrocious behavior to continue.

    I am Marvin Wilson. We are ALL Marvin Wilson.

    August 8, 2012

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