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Supreme Court refuses to halt Texas execution of man with low IQ

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday denied [order, PDF] an application to stay the Texas execution of a man with in IQ of 61. Justice Antonin Scalia refused [Reuters report] the challenge brought by Marvin Wilson who claimed that his execution is unconstitutional under the 2002 ruling in Atkins v. Virginia [opinion, PDF], which prohibits the execution of mentally retarded persons. Wilson was sentenced to death in 1994, two years after he was convicted of murder for killing a police drug informant. His IQ was determined to be 61—lower than the mentally competent level which is set at 70. Texas however argued that the IQ test was conducted by an intern and that that the result was flawed. Defense lawyers claimed that state officials used nonclinical factors in determining Wilson's mental competency. They also raised the issue that the state allegedly received new evidence demonstrating that their client was not the shooter. However, the Supreme Court did not address the issue. Wilson was executed Tuesday night.

Texas courts had previously stayed an execution of a mentally ill defendant. In July the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [court website] ordered [JURIST report] a stay of execution [order, PDF] for convicted killer Marcus Druery who had been scheduled for execution on August 1. He had been diagnosed as schizophrenic by both prison and private doctors. In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in the case of Bobby v. Bies [Cornell LII backgrounder] that a post-conviction hearing to determine the mental competency of a capital defendant convicted before the Court's 2002 ruling in Atkins does not violate the Double Jeopardy [Cornell LII backgrounder] clause. Despite the ruling in Atkins, in 29 states, including Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey [JURIST reports], the defendant still carries the burden of proving mental retardation in death-penalty [JURIST news archive] cases to receive a lesser sentence.

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