Texas should not execute intellectually disabled man
Fri Aug 3, 2012 14:06
Texas should not execute intellectually disabled man By Margaret A. Nygren Updated 07:33 p.m., Thursday, August 2, 2012
In my work as the executive director of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), I have worked with many people who have intellectual disability, formerly known as mental retardation. Most of us know people who have intellectual disability through our extended circle of friends, family, church, schools and the like. We may be familiar with the diversity of people with intellectual disability, and many have first-hand experience of some of the vast variations in how this disability appears. However, despite the variety of ways that intellectual disability may appear to a layman, it is a medical diagnosis based on clinical indications; an individual either has it, or he does not.
In 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court categorically banned the execution of persons with (what was then known as) mental retardation in Atkins v. Virginia, the court specifically endorsed AAIDD's clinical definition of intellectual disability. Indeed, the elements of the current clinical conditions to diagnose intellectual disability have been consistent for nearly 100 years.
Yet Texas plans to execute a man named Marvin Lee Wilson next Tuesday, Aug. 7, despite an IQ score of 61 and a complete evaluation by a specialist, both of which confirm that Wilson has intellectual disability, with the specific diagnosis of mild mental retardation. Make no mistake, if a trained clinician finds that an individual has an intellectual disability, the fact that the impairment is deemed mild rather than severe does not negate nor diminish the diagnosis or its profound impact on an individual's abilities.
Born into poverty in a home without running water, Wilson was a caring child who tried to help support his family by obtaining paid work in order to buy food for his brothers and sisters when he was as young as 8 or 9 years old. But his limitations made it impossible to keep these jobs. Sworn affidavits from friends and family describe how, during his childhood, Wilson couldn't play with tops or marbles, and didn't understand how to wear a belt properly. He completed about 10 years of schooling, all in special education classes. After failing the seventh grade, Marvin earned mostly Ds and Fs, even during his second year of special education in seventh grade.
Despite being incarcerated for most of his son's life, Wilson's son, Bohannon Teno, credits his father's loving influence with helping him to become the first man in his family never to have been incarcerated.
Intellectual disability is a medical condition and should be assessed by a specialist. Unfortunately for its citizens, Texas evaluates defendants for intellectual disability using factors that are not used by medical professionals, and are based on false stereotypes that exclude all but the most severely incapacitated. Evaluating individuals using these factors, called the Briseño factors, is fundamentally incompatible with the scientific and clinical understanding of intellectual disability.
When Wilson came before the state of Texas to prove his intellectual disability and seek his constitutional protection from execution, the state did not present any evidence against him having an intellectual disability. The state did not provide any expert witnesses (or witnesses of any kind) to refute the court-appointed, board-certified expert's diagnosis of mild mental retardation. However, because Texas unfairly uses unscientific factors to cherry-pick which people with intellectual disability will be exempt from execution, Wilson was essentially deemed "not disabled enough" to receive the constitutional protection he is entitled to because of his medical condition.
This is simply not good enough. Our country protects its citizens who have the medical condition of intellectual disability from execution for several important reasons. Because of their diminished understanding, they are inherently less culpable for their crimes. They are also less able to successfully mount a criminal defense.
The Supreme Court has affirmed this constitutional protection as the law of the land, in every state, and for every individual with an intellectual disability. Texas should respect the rights of individuals with intellectual disabilities and commute Wilson's sentence from death to life without the possibility of parole.
Nygren is the executive director and CEO of the American Association On Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
THURSDAY, AUG 2, 2012 Texas’ next dubious execution The Supreme Court said it's illegal to execute the mentally retarded. But Texas has found ways around the ruling BY PAUL CAMPOS The state of Texas... more
Advocates: Don't Execute Mentally Retarded Man • by Brandi Grissom • August 3, 2012 A state senator joined anti-death penalty advocates on Friday in calling on Texas to halt next week's execution of... more
EDITORIAL Mentally Retarded and on Death Row Published: August 3, 2012 Marvin Wilson, with an I.Q. of 61, is scheduled to be put to death in Texas on Tuesday. His execution would directly contradict... more
Death by IQ: US inmates condemned by flawed tests 15 August 2012 by Peter Aldhous Despite a US Supreme Court ruling, intellectually disabled convicts are being executed – and it's all down to errors... more
Bill Would Limit Execution of Intellectually Disabled • by Brandi Grissom • March 6, 2013 Before Texas executed Marvin Wilson last year for the 1992 murder of Jerry Robert Williams in Beaumont, his... more
Aug 22, 2012 | Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin Witnessing execution strengthens reverence for life by Rich Van Dellen On Aug. 7 I witnessed the state of Texas execute my friend Marvin Lee Wilson, No.... more
Last words of Texas death row inmates: a kind of gallows poetry By Matt Pearce August 12, 2012, 4:43 p.m. Texas executed a man with an IQ of 61 last week for murdering a 21-year-old police drug... more
Will Texas Execute a Man With an IQ of 61? Liliana Segura on August 6, 2012 If 54-year-old Marvin Wilson is put to death on Tuesday, it will not be because Texas denies that he is intellectually... more
Dancing Around the Death Penalty We tie ourselves into knots wondering when executions might be defensible, but this is the wrong question to be asking By ERIKA CHRISTAKIS | @erikachristakis | August ... more
>> • As of 2:00 the Supreme Court has not posted a ruling on the cert petition they have for Marvin Wilson. So unless there is something announced before 3:30 we will drive to Huntsville to protest... more
Texas should not execute intellectually disabled man Petra.,Fri Aug 3 14:06
For Immediate Release Contact: Jeremy Warren August 3, 2012 (512) 463-0113 Ellis Statement on Wilson Execution, Offender with Mental Retardation On August 7, Texas plans to execute Marvin Wilson, a... more
The number of SE Texas prisoners on Death Row could increase dramatically By Heather Nolan Updated 11:32 a.m., Tuesday, August 14, 2012 Once known as the source of the most death row inmates per... more