On August 7, 2012 Marvin Wilson, a black man who sucked his thumb and didn’t know left from right, was executed by lethal injection by the state of Texas. He had a tested IQ of 61. The Texas benchmark for retardation is an IQ of 70 or less. Yet Marvin’s attorneys were unable to convince state and federal courts he was mentally retarded. The lower courts supported the fact that psychological assessments over the years did not coincide with the findings of a test given in 2004 that rated his IQ at only 61 (Press, 2012).
Wilson was convicted of murdering Jerry Williams back in 1994, after Williams identified him to police as a drug dealer. Wilson’s accomplice, Terry Lewis, received life in prison with a possibility of parole after Lewis’ wife claimed Wilson had confessed to being the shooter.
There was no forensic evidence and no eyewitness testimony (Rudolf, 2012). Lewis testified at the trial that Wilson confessed to her, her husband, and his own wife by saying, “Don’t be mad at Andrew because Andrew did not do it, I did” (Press, Marvin Wilson Executed, 2012).
This confession is interesting in not only who he confessed to, but the nature of the very words themselves. Due to the mental impairment of low IQ criminals, many of them demonstrate an extreme eager to please attitude in an attempt to be seen favorably by authority figures.
They have the innate ability to figure out what others want them to say and are eager to take blame and give incorrect answers in order to please others. These people are extremely easy to manipulate (Leo, 2009). In light of this common knowledge, Wilson was nevertheless convicted on Lewis’ wife’s testimony. So a man who reads and writes below a second grade level and could barely tie his own shoes was put on Death Row.
Mentally ill prisoners in our nation’s prison system are ill-equipped to deal with the stress of prison life. In the United States, there are three times more mentally ill people in prison then there are in mental hospitals. Couple this with gross understaffing, limited programs, and insufficient facilities and you have nothing more than a warehouse for the mentally unstable (Watch, 2003).
So how did this all come about? How was a man with a 61 IQ executed by lethal injection when the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing the mentally retarded was cruel and unusual punishment and forbidden under the Constitution’s 8th Amendment? By a loophole.
Marvin Wilson was executed due to a loophole in the Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling. Instead of one mandate across the board, the Supreme Court allowed each individual state to define the term mental retardation. Texas did not just go by psychological testing, they based their opinion upon an inmate’s ability to adapt and function within a prison environment (Holt, 2012).
Marvin Wilson was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. on August 7th, 14 minutes after his lethal injection began. His three sisters and son were present at the execution and he nodded to them and told them he loved them. He asked them to give his mother a big hug and tell her he loved her as well. In his final moments, Marvin Wilson stated, “Take me home, Jesus, take me home, Lord. I ain’t left yet, must be a miracle. I am a miracle.”
A heinous crime was committed back in 1994 when Jerry Williams was shot to death. Who pulled the trigger, no one truly knows except the three men who were there that night. Two of those men are now dead and the third has a chance of parole so there will be no sudden surprise admissions of guilt. But there’s more than just the crime of murder here.
Marvin Wilson was abandoned by society, abandoned by a court ruling that should have protected him because...why? He was never going to lead a full, useful life. He was a poor black kid who got by on street smarts but couldn’t tie his own shoes and didn’t know his left hand from his right. He was of absolutely no use. But he still deserved to live.
The greatest crime committed here is that our society viewed him as expendable. And once we cross that line, of deciding who is expendable and who is not, we are no longer a society. We are nothing more than hunters and prey. I sure hope Jesus took Marvin home; there’s obviously no place for him here.
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