Texas executes man with low IQ

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Marvin Wilson, 54, received the death penalty August 7, ignoring calls from human rights activists to consider the man’s mental condition and spare his life.

Wilson, a black man, was convicted of the 1994 murder of another man he alleged was a drug dealer, according to a Huffington Post article.

In his life, Wilson had two IQ tests, a 1974 test that measured his IQ at 73 and a 2004 test which determined that his IQ was 70, according to an article in the Atlantic. He was also enrolled in special education classes as a kid, where he received mostly Ds and Fs.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 in Atkins v. Virginia that the use of the death penalty against people with mental disabilities violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court explicitly left it up to the states to determine whom qualified as having a mental disability.

It is almost universally accepted that people with an IQ below 70 qualify.

Texas, in 2004, established a criteria of factors, called the “Briseno” factors for determining if a person is eligible for the death penalty. If a person satisfies just one of the factors, he is eligible for the factors.

According to a Human Rights Watch, these factors include “whether the defendant can formulate and carry out plans, display leadership, effectively lie or hide facts to protect the person’s self-interest, and respond appropriately and coherently.”

“How much more “clearly established” could the federal law be than the Supreme Court’s statement that ‘the mentally retarded should be categorically excluded from execution?'” the New York Times argued in a recent editorial. “The state’s brazen refusal to follow that rule is unreasonable by any but the most extreme view.”

The prosecutor’s case against Wilson rested on testimony from his accomplice in the crime that he confessed to her that he pulled the trigger. Wilson never confessed to the crime. There was no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony.

Amnesty International also called on the Supreme Court to intervene on Wilson’s behalf.