Marvin Wilson was executed yesterday in Texas. He was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m., 14 minutes after his lethal injection began at the state prison in Huntsville.
Wilson's case had garnered a lot of attention because his attorneys had argued that he should have been ineligible for capital punishment because of his low IQ.
In Wilson's appeal to the U.S. Supreme court, his attorneys pointed to a psychological test conducted in 2004 that pegged Wilson's IQ at 61, below the generally accepted minimum competency standard of 70. In Texas, the benchmark for mental retardation is an IQ of about 70 or below. Other states use a threshold IQ of 75 or lower.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia banned the execution of the mentally retarded.
According to the Associated Press, the Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution less than two hours before his lethal injection began. Lead defense attorney Lee Kovarsky said he was "gravely disappointed and saddened" by the ruling, calling it "outrageous that the state of Texas continues to utilize unscientific guidelines ... to determine which citizens with intellectual disability are exempt from execution."
Wilson was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Jerry Williams in November 1992, several days after police seized 24 grams of cocaine from Wilson's apartment and arrested him. Witnesses testified that Wilson and another man, Andrew Lewis, beat Williams outside of a convenience store in Beaumont, about 80 miles east of Houston. Wilson, who was free on bond, accused Williams of snitching on him about the drugs, they said.
State attorneys say the court left it to states to develop appropriate standards for enforcing the ban and that Texas chose to incorporate a number of factors besides an inmate's IQ, including the inmate's adaptive behavior and functioning.
Wilson was the seventh person executed by lethal injection in Texas this year. At least nine other prisoners in the nation's most active death penalty state have execution dates in the coming months, including one later this month.
An analysis of crime and punishment from the perspective of a former prosecutor and current criminal justice practitioner.
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