"x x x.
Marvin Wilson, with an I.Q. of 61, is scheduled to be put to death in Texas on Tuesday. His execution would directly contradict the Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Atkins v. Virginia that “the mentally retarded should be categorically excluded from execution” because of “their disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment and control of their impulses.” The court should accept Mr. Wilson’s case for review and end Texas’s illegal defiance of its explicit holding that the death penalty for the mentally retarded is unconstitutional.
The court found a national consensus against executing the retarded. But it said states must apply professional standards in identifying people with retardation because “not all people who claim to be mentally retarded will be so impaired as to fall within the range of mentally retarded offenders about whom there is a national consensus.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in a 2004 ruling perversely read that directive to mean that the state could devise its own restricted test for retardation. It bluntlyrejected the Supreme Court’s “categorical rule making such offenders ineligible for the death penalty.” It defiantly refused to recognize “a ‘mental retardation’ bright-line exemption” even for those who “legitimately qualify” as mentally retarded for other purposes.
The Texas court’s ruling was the basis for its rejection of mental retardation claims in at least 10 death penalty cases.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has deepened this injustice. It has repeatedly denied habeas corpus appeals by death row inmates under theAntiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, insisting that state court rejections of mental retardation claims were not “contrary to” or “an unreasonable application” of “clearly established federal law.”
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 state’s brazen refusal to follow that rule is unreasonable by any but the most extreme view.
Texas has never contested Marvin Wilson’s claim of mental retardation. The state has simply refused to accept him as retarded enough to be exempted from execution. His lawyers told the Supreme Court in a brief, “If he does not obtain federal habeas relief, he will own the grisly distinction as the Texas Atkins claimant executed with the lowest” undisputed I.Q. score.
The court must stop this cruel and unconstitutional execution of a mentally retarded man.
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