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News Link • Criminal Justice System

Texas to execute mentally disabled prisoner on Tuesday

•, By Ed Pilkington

A death row prisoner who has been medically diagnosed as “mentally retarded” and therefore exempt from execution is set to die on Tuesday in Texas, a state that rejects scientific consensus and instead applies its own definition of learning difficulties based on a character in a John Steinbeck novel.

Barring a last minute intervention by the courts, Marvin Wilson, 54, will be put to death by lethal injection even though he has been subjected to scientifically-recognised tests that show him to be intellectually disabled – or “mentally retarded” as the US legal system still calls the condition.

In 2002, the US supreme court banned executions for all such prisoners under the Eighth Amendment of the constitution that prohibits excessive punishment. The 2002 ban, in Atkins v Virginia, is categorical: individuals with mental retardation cannot be put to death. The court allowed some discretion on the part of individual states to devise procedures for administering the injunction, but no right to ignore it.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ed Price
Entered on:

All murderers should be executed.

If someone is chopping down a tree with an axe, and the axehead flies of the axe and accidentally (no pun intended) kills someone, the axe wielder should not be executed, but should be placed in a special prison for these kinds of cases, for not more than 49 years, depending on aspects of the case.

If, however, it is found that this particular axehead has been in the habit of flying off the handle, and the axe wielder has not repaired it, then the axe wielder should be executed.


Suppose that a farmer has a bull that gores someone to death. The bull should be destroyed, but the farmer should be held innocent.

If, however, it is found that bull was in the habit of goring, and the farmer did not keep it penned up, then the farmer should be executed for murder. But if he has enough insurance to cover a settlement, then he has rescued himself.

Mental retardation is not an excuse to keep a person who has committed murder from being executed. The important point that should be investigated in this case, is whether or not this murder had been in the habit of intended or attempted harm towards people in the past. If he has attempted harm in the past, perhaps his guardians should be executed as well for not constraining him well enough.

If there are State officials who were his guardians, perhaps they should be executed, as well.

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