Texas Set to Execute Marvin Wilson Today Despite Ban on Executing People With Intellectual Disability


Although the U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty for people with intellectual disability, Texas is planning to execute Marvin Wilson today. Mr. Wilson has an IQ of 61 and the only board-certified expert to evaluate him concluded he has intellectual disability.

As a child, Marvin Wilson struggled with basic things like tying his shoes, counting money, and mowing the lawn. He earned D’s and F’s in special education classes and failed the 7th grade. The other kids called him “dummy” and “retarded.” He was socially promoted to the 10th grade, then dropped out.

According to experts who assessed his mental health, Mr. Wilson continues to be unable to perform even the simplest tasks without help. This intellectual disability typically manifests itself before age 18 and is objectively determined by mental health professionals, independent of the crime.

The State of Texas, however, insists that it can add factors onto the test for intellectual disability that are not used by any other states, not based on scientific criteria, and do relate to the original crime. The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has written that this “impressionistic ‘test’ directs fact-finders to use ‘factors’ that are based on false stereotypes about [intellectual disability] that effectively exclude all but the most severely incapacitated.”

Attorneys for Mr. Wilson have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that he is categorically ineligible for the death penalty and asking it to find that Texas is unreasonably applying the Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which bars execution of persons with intellectual disability.

The only expert to examine Mr. Wilson for intellectual disability was a court-appointed, board certified neuropsychologist with 22 years of clinical experience as an intellectual disability specialist. The neuropsychologist concluded that Mr. Wilson had mild intellectual disability. The State did not evaluate Mr. Wilson.

If the Court does not agree to review his case, Mr. Wilson will be the person with the lowest undisputed IQ score executed in Texas since Atkins.