How Texas Can Execute a Man with an IQ of 61

Marvin Wilson

Marvin Wilson

According to his most recent test, Marvin Wilson has an IQ of 61 (most states bar executions for those with IQs at 70 or below). That puts him below the first percentile of human intelligence, and he’s in an even lower percentile for adaptive functioning.  Despite the US Supreme Court’s ten-year old ban on executing the “mentally retarded” (Atkins v. Virginia), Marvin Wilson faces execution in Texas on August 7.

In Georgia, the case of Warren Hill recently exposed that state’s uniquely strict requirement that “mental retardation” be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” before an execution can be declared unconstitutional.

Texas uses a more reasonable “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof.  But the Lone Star State has found another way to keep killing the intellectually disabled.

The state’s highest court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA), decided that the US Supreme Court’s ban doesn’t apply to all persons with “mental retardation”, just to a “level and degree of mental retardation at which a consensus of Texas citizens would agree that a person should be exempted from the death penalty.”

The US Supreme Court, of course, made no such distinctions, writing plainly in its Atkins decision: “Executions of mentally retarded criminals are ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.”

But, whatever.

To determine whether its “level and degree of mental retardation” has been reached, the TCCA developed a set of seven questions that the court itself suggested were inspired by Lennie Small, the mentally impaired ranch hand in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Lennie is a fictional character from a book written 75 years ago.

The American Association of Intellectual and Development Disabilities (AAIDD) has written that these 7 questions “…are based on false stereotypes about mental retardation that effectively exclude all but the most severely incapacitated.”  The AAIDD (known then as AAMR), was the main scientific authority noted by the US Supreme Court in Atkins.

Nonetheless, Marvin Wilson was evaluated by the TCCA’s dubious criteria, and found to be eligible for execution.  So it seems that by interpreting a US Supreme Court ruling with 1930s literature instead of 21st century science, Texas has effectively exempted some prisoners with “mental retardation” from the protections ordered by our nation’s highest court.

And unless the US Supreme Court or someone intervenes, Texas will execute Marvin Wilson on August 7.

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22 thoughts on “How Texas Can Execute a Man with an IQ of 61

    • Does it really matter?
      I don't believe in killing people for any reason, but killing someone who may not be able to fully understand what they did, why it is wrong, or what is now happening, is even lower than usual.

      • My goodness, are you one of these people who continue to claim that this guy did not understand the murder he committed? You must truly be undeducated about the cirmcustances of his crime. Read Brian's entries and perhaps you will relalize that Mr. Wilson fully understood and appreciated his crime…

  1. I agree with Amelia. If the state of Texas convicted Marvin of doing something they deemed unacceptable what makes it right to to do it themselves?

  2. Atkins v Virginia is the law. Texas would be the state to ignore it. This is wrong. Those in favour of the death penalty say that introducing safeguards is a method of improving it…how can they argue in favour of such an irrevocable and inhumane process when conservative and arrogant states like Texas continue to execute unremittingly and with prejudice?

  3. Dumb enough to fail an iq test but smart enough to pick up a gun, murder someone, and run away eh? Give him the cocktail and be done with it. NEXT

  4. Wilson was clever enough to find the "snitch" the police used as an informant to catch him (Wilson) – a guy with multiple convictions for Robbery and dealing drugs. Wilson was out on bond when he was able to discover who the informant was that led police to obtaining a warrant and finding a bunch of cocaine in Wilson's apartment. Wilson hunted Williams down – beat the crap out of him in a grocery store parking lot – Williams tried to run away. Wilson and his thug buddy chased him down – beat him some more and forced him into the vehicle Wilson's buddy was driving. Wilson asked Williams "where's the gun – I want to kill him!" He shot him, stripped his clothes off and left his body on the ground as a "message" to snitches. Yeah no surpise he has a low IQ – but he knew what he was doing.

  5. On November 4, 1992, police officers entered Wilson’s apartment pursuant to a search warrant. Jerry Williams was the confidential informant whose information enabled them to obtain the warrant. Williams entered and left the apartment minutes before the police went in.

    Wilson, another man and a juvenile female were present in the apartment. Over 24 grams of cocaine were found, and Wilson and the other man were arrested for possession of a controlled substance. Wilson was subsequently released on bond, but the other man remained in jail.

    Sometime after the incident, Wilson told a friend that someone had “snitched” on Wilson, that the “snitch” was never going to have the chance to “to have someone else busted,” and that Wilson “was going to get him.”

  6. On November 9, 1992, several observers saw an incident take place in the parking lot in front of a grocery store. In the parking lot, Wilson stood over Williams and beat him. Wilson asked Williams, “What do you want to be a snitch for? Do you know what we do to a snitch? Do you want to die right here?”

    In response, Williams begged for his life. A friend of Wilson's, Andrew Lewis, was pumping gasoline in his car at the time. Williams ran away from Wilson and across the street to a field. Wilson pursued Williams and caught him. Lewis drove his car to the field and while Williams struggled against them, Wilson and Lewis forced Williams into the car.

    At some point during this incident, either in front of Mike’s Grocery, across the street, or at both places, Lewis participated in hitting Williams and Wilson asked Lewis: “Where’s the gun?” Wilson told Lewis to get the gun and said that he (Wilson) wanted to kill Williams.

  7. They drove toward a Mobil refinery. Two other witnesses drove back to their apartments, which were close by, and when they arrived, they heard what sounded like gunshots from the direction of the Mobil plant.

    Sometime after the incident, Wilson told his wife, in the presence of Lewis and his wife, “Baby, you remember the n***** I told you I was going to get? I did it. I don’t know if he dead or what, but I left him there to die.” When Lewis's wife looked back at her husband, Wilson stated, “Don’t be mad at him because he did not do it. I did it.”

    On November 10, 1992, a bus driver noticed Williams’ dead body on the side of a road. The autopsy report concluded that Williams died from close range gunshot wounds to the head and neck.

  8. I think that Brian above has just killed the argument that Mr.Wilson is truly mentally retarded. Death penalty opponents once again cling to the IQ score alone, rather that look at the adaptive functioning that the AIDD stresses is more relevant to mental retardation.

    Can a truly mentally retarded person plan and execute a murder in a manner recapped by Brian from the trail record, and discuss it in terms that indicated perfect understanding and appreciation of wkat killing someone means? Mr. Wilson is an amazingly smart person for someone who scored 61 on an IQ test!!!

  9. Cause of death MURDER. On death certificate of the executed. I do not want to be a MURDERER- DO YOU!

    • You are not a murderer! You are a well adjusted individual who acts in accordance with the law. Mr. Wilson was a drug dealer who profited off of impressionable youth and adults and finally murdered another human being to protect himself and his criminal enterprise. He did not think twice about murdering and has a prior robbery in his background.

      Your hands are clean….

  10. eileen – the argument about what is and is not "murder" is one debate – whether Wilson knew what he was doing (and therefore held accountable) is another debate. It is obvious from your reply to my post you have no argument concerning this post and the relevance of Wilson's IQ. At a minimum you now know a bigger picture and the facts surrounding this particular murder. AI is notorious for cherry picking, spinning and telling half-truths in an attempt to mislead people and get them fired up.

    • I agree with Brian that AI twists a lot of information to garner public support for its causes and I wrote about this giving of false/innacurate information in number of my posts on this platform. That is truly sad that AI has to resolve to these tactics and truly, the supporters need to realize that it is a reflection of how poorly AmnestyUSA thinks of us…

  11. I'm still confused about whether or not Texas violated the Supreme Court's ruling in Atkins v. Virginia. I think they were in violation of the ruling, but I've read that the Court in its opinion allowed each state to determine whether or not the convicted is mentally impaired – giving Texas a loophole in the Wilson case. Regardless, with the convicted having the mind of a child, I strongly believe that commuting the sentence to life would have been the way to go.

  12. SCOTUS left to each State the discretion to determine mental retardation claim's validity and establish standards under which this claim will be credible and thus Texas is actually not in violation of any provisions in Atkins. You see Dave – adaptive functioning is more of a determinant of mental retardation and so SCOTUS defers to the States to establish whether mental retardation claim has any teeth.

    AmnestyUSA once again provides misinformation to the general public…

  13. Whatever the circumstances, execution is wrong! I feel very strongly about this. If what the prisoners did was so horrible, make them live with their crimes, make them stay in prison for the rest of their lives, make them live in hell for all I care. But killing them? It's wrong and inhumane.