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Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Blood on Texas' Hands: Execution of Marvin Wilson


I have to admit that I've been aware of this story only peripherally until last night. I knew that there was an inmate in Texas with an intellectual disability whose execution date was approaching. I knew that his lawyer was fighting for a stay. I think I thought that I had more time to research the case and eventually cover it here. 

And then last night, I learned the inmate's name: Marvin Wilson.

I read on my Twitter feed that the Supreme Court in Texas had officially said that the execution could go through. I read that  Marvin Wilson's last assessment said that he had an IQ of 61. I saw the tweet at7:45 pm, 45 minutes after his execution.

I called a friend and I cried and cried.

Tears for Marvin Wilson


I guess I should put out there that I'm rather strongly anti-death penalty (like that's going to shock any of my regular readers).  Especially so in a circumstance like this. I do agree that it should be unconstitutional to use the death penalty on people with intellectual disabilities.

Not that Wilson shouldn't have been punished for his crime (which was allegedly murder; some evidence suggested that he was not the shooter, which the Supreme Court chose not to address.). But, discipline is a dicey issue right from early childhood for a person with an IQ that low. We have to first ask ourselves if they truly understood that what they did was wrong, and find the best way to get that across. Traditional discipline methods don't always do the best job at that. Was prison? I don't know. I don't know much Wilson understood about his actions, or about prison, or about how he connected the two. My concern is more with how he connected his actions and his death. Did he know that he was going to die? Did he understand why?

My Hopes for Marvin Wilson


I'd like to think that Wilson's lawyers worked hard with him to make sure that he understood everything in the process that was going on to the greatest extent possible. I'd like to think that the prison was fully cooperative in allowing Marvin Wilson as much time with his lawyers  or some kind of support services as needed to work through these issues. The justice system can be terribly confusing for people with intellectual disabilities.

There's another part of me that hopes that Marvin Wilson  didn't know that he was going to die, because I'm scared to death that he really didn't have the capacity to understand why.  I don't want to think of him dying in that kind of fear.

Ultimately I guess I just hope it was quick and that Marvin Wilson didn't suffer.

And I hope that you lose some sleep over this, Scalia. The critera that you used to decide whether or not he had an intellectual disability, in the absence of an assessment that you trusted, was bullshit. You should have had another assessment done if you were concerned. There was plenty of time.

This was a man's life that you had in your hands.  Shame on you.

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