Despite the lingering questions about Marvin Lee Wilson's mental abilities, both Gov. Rick Perry and the U.S. Supreme Court declined yesterday to intervene, clearing the way for Wilson's execution last night.
Even in death, questions remain about whether Wilson was actually mentally disabled – and questions persist as well about Texas' approach for determining whether a death-eligible defendant is mentally disabled. The Supremes ruled in 2002 that execution of the mentally retarded is unconstitutional; despite that ruling, the state of Texas has failed to codify the ban, choosing instead to have the Court of Criminal Appeals define a set of "factors" that should be used to determine intellectual disability. Those factors, however, are short on science and long on fiction. (Find more on the issues in the Wilson case here.)
Certainly, the debate over who is disabled enough to be executed will continue.
Here is a statement from Wilson's attorney, Lee Kovarsky, after learning that the Supremes had declined to step in to stop Wilson's death:
"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."
And here are the details of Wilson's execution, including his last statement:
OFFENDER: Marvin Wilson #999098
EXECUTION DATE: August 7, 2012
PRONOUNCED DECEASED: 6:27 p.m.
“Bohannon, Peg and Kim I love ya’ll. Son, get your life right with Christ, also your mother. Give mom a hug for me and tell her that I love her. Y'all do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint. Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, Take me home Lord. I ain’t left yet, must be a miracle. I am a miracle. I see you Rich, don’t cry son, don’t cry baby. I love ya’ll, I’m ready.”
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