Texas Executes Killer Despite Questions over His Low IQ

Concerns about the low IQ of a death row inmate in Texas didn’t stop the state putting him to death this month.

Marvin Wilson was executed on August 7, 2012, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the arguments of his lawyers that he shouldn’t have been eligible for the death penalty because of his low IQ.

Wilson, 54, received a lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville, CBS News reported.

In putting the inmate to death, the state overruled concerns about his mental capacity.

Wilson’s attorneys, in their appeal to the Supreme Court, argued he was too mentally impaired to receive capital punishment. They pointed to a 2004 psychological test that indicated his IQ was 61, which is below the generally accepted minimum competency standard of 70.

The lower courts decided Wilson’s claim was based on a “single, and possibly faulty, test,” CBS reported.

However, defense attorneys were critical of the state of Texas’ reliance on “unscientific guidelines” to decide who is exempt from execution.
The IQ issue is important because federal law prohibits states from executing mentally disabled people.

The I.Q issue was also raised recently in the state of Georgia which plans to execute Warren Lee Hill Jr., who has an I.Q. of 70. The Georgia Supreme court recently granted him a stay of execution.

Wilson was convicted of the murder of a 21-year-old police informant Jerry Williams in November 1992. The crime took place a few days after police seized cocaine from his apartment and arrested him.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2002 that outlawed the execution of mentally impaired people, but left it to the states to establish what constitutes mental impairment.

The amount of leeway given to the states seems unfortunate because it can lead to vague guidelines as appears to be the case in Texas. If there is doubt about whether an inmate is mentally disabled, that’s surely a reason not to use the ultimate punishment.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.