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Texas executes death row prisoner despite mental impairment defense

[JURIST] The State of Texas executed death row inmate Bobby Wayne Woods [TDCJ profile] by lethal injection Thursday, over the objections of lawyers who argued Woods was mentally impaired and thus could not be executed under federal law. Defense lawyers argued that Woods's IQ fell below 70, a number used generally as a threshold for mental retardation. The Texas Court of Appeals rejected [opinion, PDF] this argument, citing evidence that Woods' IQ was as high as 86. Earlier this week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles [official website] voted against granting Woods clemency. The US Supreme Court [official website] also denied [order, PDF] Woods's lawyers' request [docket] to halt the execution.

Woods was convicted of breaking into his former girlfriend's house in 1997 and sexually assaulting, abducting, and murdering her 11-year-old daughter. Woods was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998. Despite repeated appeals, Woods was unsuccessful in having his sentence permanently stayed. Mentally retarded persons cannot be executed under the US Supreme Court's 2002 ruling in Atkins v. Virginia [opinion]. Texas is one of 37 states that maintains the death penalty [TDCJ backgrounder; JURIST news archive].

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