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August 8, 2012

Texas executes inmate after SCOTUS declines to intervene on Atkins issue

As reported in this AP article, a "Texas man convicted of killing a police informant was executed Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments that he was too mentally impaired to qualify for the death penalty."  Here is more from the article about this case and Texas's capital campaigns this year:

Marvin Wilson, 54, was pronounced dead 14 minutes after his lethal injection began at the state prison in Huntsville. Wilson's attorneys had argued that he should have been ineligible for capital punishment because of his low IQ.

In their appeal to the high court, his attorneys pointed to a psychological test conducted in 2004 that pegged Wilson's IQ at 61, below the generally accepted minimum competency standard of 70.

But lower courts agreed with state attorneys, who argued that Wilson's claim was based on a single test that may have been faulty and that his mental impairment claim isn't supported by other tests and assessments of him over the years.

The Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution less than two hours before his lethal injection began....

Wilson was the seventh person executed by lethal injection in Texas this year.  At least nine other prisoners in America's most active death penalty state have execution dates in the coming months, including one later this month.

August 8, 2012 at 03:03 AM | Permalink


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Still arbitrary and capricious as forty years ago

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 8, 2012 4:13:44 AM

The inmate was smarter, craftier and more socially adept than the nerds on the Supreme Court. Although both made their livings illegally taking from the taxpayer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 8, 2012 7:26:55 AM

I discussed the report the defense relied on (which discussed all five tests) on another thread.

It sounds like a debatable case though your position on the death penalty will strongly determine what that means to you. Seems the USSC "liberals" didn't think it was clear enough to use as a test case or even to make a statement about the state of the law.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 8, 2012 12:44:06 PM

I am not sure how "debatable" a case it can be when the defense could not even get the 4 votes required in SCOTUS to hear the case. If you cannot get Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer onboard for a writ of certiorari, it is likely a slam dunk.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 8, 2012 1:51:20 PM

How debatable Joe? The guy had fully litigated his MR claims.

He had one post-Atkins test for which the tester could not vouch that he had not been a malingerer. "Debatable" is a charitable way to put it.

In any event, he is dead, and justice was served. Good riddance. One less criminal for Texas to feed.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 8, 2012 2:14:56 PM

TarlsQtr and federalist have this one figured out. If not even one of Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg or Breyer will write so much as a tepid dissent -- or even a separate opinion by whatever name they wish to call it -- saying in some wishy-washy way that, "While the execution here may be acceptable under existing law, the doubts about petitioner's mental capacity are sufficient to remind us that it would be wise at some point to revisit the standards we have established (or failed adequately to establish)" -- if you can't get even that, one has to wonder how "debatable" this case ever really was.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 8, 2012 3:59:47 PM

Dear B'lotis,

Now that you've confirmed that federalist has figured something out, the rest of us can all feel more comfortable about the matter.

Thanks as always.

Posted by: Sandy | Aug 8, 2012 4:49:26 PM

Sandy --

If you have an actual answer to the substance of my post, rather than just wanting to stick your tongue out, I'm sure it would be welcome. Do you?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 8, 2012 6:42:32 PM

- crickets -

The lack of a dissent for denial of cert is what convinces me here. I could see at least one of the Gang of Four not voting to grant cert on certain DP issues and thus denying the four votes for cert. But when not even one justice says "this one smells, we should at least stay the execution for further consideration"...well, there you go.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Aug 8, 2012 7:13:57 PM

T., justices don't take cases just so they can be heard. They take around 70 cases a year total & strategically taken them at that, including often counting noses. If Kennedy won't provide a fifth vote, e.g., they might not take it. Far from clear this means it wasn't "debatable."

F., I discussed the report on the other thread. A veteran court appointed expert discussed why the lowest score was in his expert opinion was the best one, discussing each of the tests in the report, and noting his determination was based on various factors. Experts know about malingering and whatever the CA5 noted, the actual report sent another message on that question. And, he didn't just rely on a personal test of the subject anyway.

Bill Otis, dissents from denial are very rare. Unless justices, on both sides, are nearly never unsure, but figure a statement is not worth it, that doesn't tell me much. You surely know this as much as I do. Again, this is not limited to one side. Justices think certain cases "smell" but still nearly never publicly say anything.

Lots of death penalty cases are "debatable" & that isn't enough for cert or a very rare statement for the people here. Anyway, yes, he's dead & the usual suspects are stating their usual statements, as I implied above.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 8, 2012 7:53:09 PM

Isn't it interesting how that works. If a SCOTUS justice says "the case smells", it smells. If a SCOTUS justice does not say the case smells, the case smells.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 8, 2012 10:13:36 PM

(RTTNews - url link on my name) - European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed deep regret at the execution of a US citizen who has significant intellectual disabilities, and called for a global moratorium on capital punishment.

The US state of Texas on Tuesday executed Marvin Lee Wilson, a man who has significant intellectual disabilities, ignoring calls by human rights organizations.

The 54-year-old African American, who was sentenced to death for the abduction and murder of a police drug informant in 1992, was killed by a lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital injected into his veins by prison authorities.

A statement issued by the spokesperson of Catherine Ashton on Wednesday said "The High Representative recognizes the serious nature of the crime involved and expresses her sincere sympathy to the surviving family and friends of the victim. However, she does not believe that their loss has been mitigated by Wilson's death."

Ashton said "The EU opposes the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances," and called for "a global moratorium as a first step towards its universal abolition.

"With capital punishment any miscarriage of justice, from which no legal system is immune, represents an irreversible loss of human life,'' she added.

Posted by: peter | Aug 9, 2012 5:10:54 AM

Well,if Catherine Ashton says we are wrong, the argument is over.

Of course, I would point out that the actual CITIZENS of her native country support the reinstatement of the DP my a margin of 65%-28%.

Then again, we know what the Libs think of the "great unwashed" and it should be no surprise that the uncreasingly undemocratic EU does not care what the citizens want.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 9, 2012 9:01:18 AM

Joe --

"Bill Otis, dissents from denial are very rare."

I don't know that they're "very" rare, but they're unusual, sure. But unusual things sometimes happen every now and again (that being the definition of "unusual"), and you don't give any specific reason one of the Justices could not have said, in a dissent or just a separate statement, "While the execution here may be acceptable under existing law, the doubts about petitioner's mental capacity are sufficient to remind us that it would be wise at some point to revisit the standards we have established or, perhaps more correctly, failed adequately to establish."

No one gives Supreme Court Justices orders, and had any of them wanted to take the fifteen seconds it takes to type that sentence, he or she easily could have. No one did. That tells you something (as it told something to Res ipsa) about how "debatable" they thought this case actually was.

"Anyway, yes, he's dead & the usual suspects are stating their usual statements, as I implied above."

And you, as one of the "usual suspects," are right in there with the rest of us (peter has now checked in with his "usual suspect" contribution as well). I have no objection to this, and I don't think you should have one either. The reason Doug has a comments section is principally, as it turns out, for the "usual suspects."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 9, 2012 9:24:23 AM

peter --

You gotta love it when some unctuous platitude machine sends her "spokeperson" out to announce the unsolicited views of the "High Representative."

Just for my education, which as you know is in need of improvement, does the EU have a "Low Representative"?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 9, 2012 9:42:26 AM

Joe, get your facts right. This is out of the Fifth Circuit's opinion:

"The state court's opinion quotes extensively from the state's cross-examination of Wilson's expert Dr. Trahan, challenging Dr. Trahan's reliance on his assumption that the WAIS-III was administered by a 'well-respected and well-trained psychologist' when in fact the test was given by an intern and Dr. Trahan conceded that no records were available to indicate Wilson's motivation, attentiveness or cooperativeness or the test surroundings."

As for the lack o' dissent, remember, the Gang of Four dissented from one last year's Arizona LI stay application denial without even offering an opinion justifying their views. I guess Sotomayor was busy that day and wasn't available to explain her desire to help out a murderer. (We know that Justice Sotomayor likes to help out capital murderers because she actually wrote an opinion arguing that somehow Texas had to take the same litigation position in different capital cases. It was interesting that there was no authority for that remarkable proposition, as was her view that the prosecution wasn't somehow entitled to get a defense witness to restate the views he proffered on direct testimony. So either she's really dumb, or she just likes criminals. Someone smarter than I will have to explain which---I don't really care.) Perhaps Breyer didn't feel like mailing in an opinion like he did with SEIU v. Knox (can anyone remember a worse dissenting opinion than that?).

Who knows why the Gang of Four didn't note a dissent? I think the bottom line is that this stuff had already been litigated.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 9, 2012 9:54:07 AM

There were no dissents from the denial of cert on the Warren Hill case either.

Posted by: DaveP | Aug 9, 2012 4:37:22 PM

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