Texas Executes Inmate With IQ of 61

On Tuesday evening, Texas executed 54-year-old Marvin Wilson by lethal injection at the state prison, after the US Supreme Court rejected an appeal by his attorneys that, due to his intellectual disabilities, he should not have received the death penalty.

Wilson, who had been convicted of robbery and been incarcerated, was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Jerry Williams in November of 1992. Wilson had been arrested for possessing cocaine and believed that Williams had informed the police.

The Associated Press (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) describes Wilson’s last moments.

Before the lethal drug was administered, Wilson smiled and raised his head from the death-chamber gurney, nodding to his three sisters and son as they watched through a window a few feet away. He told them several times that he loved them and asked that they give his mother “a big hug.”

“Y’all do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint,” he said. “Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, take me home Lord!”

He urged his son not to cry, told his family he would see them again, and then told the warden standing next to him that he was ready. He didn’t acknowledge his victim’s father, two brothers and an uncle who were watching through an adjacent window. They later declined comment.

As the drug took effect, Wilson quickly went to sleep. He briefly snored before his breathing became noticeably shallow. Then it stopped.

Wilson’s attorney, Lee Kovarsky, said that he was “greatly disappointed and saddened by the ruling” and that it was “outrageous that the state of Texas continues to utilize unscientific guidelines … to determine which citizens with intellectual disability are exempt from execution.”

Texas uses its own criteria to determine if an inmate has intellectual disabilities (referred to as “mental retardation” in the US).

AP Photo of Marvin Wilson: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, File

The “Briseño factors” were created by Texas on its own, are not used by any other state and, according to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), are an “impressionistic ‘test’ [that] directs fact-finders to use ‘factors’ that are based on false stereotypes about mental retardation that effectively exclude all but the most severely incapacitated.”

Specifically, the Briseño factors are based on the character of Lennie Small in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men. Thomas Steinbeck, Steinbeck’s son, criticized the state of Texas for using the representation of intellectual disability in his father’s novel as the criteria for determining such in inmates. As he said in a statement:

“Prior to reading about Wilson’s case, I had no idea that the great state of Texas would use a fictional character that my father created to make a point about human loyalty and dedication, ie Lennie Small from Of Mice and Men, as a benchmark to identify whether defendants with intellectual disability should live or die.”

Emphasizing that his father would be “would be deeply angry and ashamed to see his work used in this way,” Steinbeck said that his father’s “work was certainly not meant to be scientific, and the character of Lennie was never intended to be used to diagnose a medical condition like intellectual disability.”

I can only agree with Steinbeck in stating that the situation is “insulting, outrageous, ridiculous and profoundly tragic” and is an object lesson for why the US needs to ban the death penalty.


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Kate B.
Kathleen B6 years ago

I oppose the death penalty for a plethora of reasons. You all probably know the reasons better than I do, but here goes: 1. Death penalty is not a deterrent, as multi scientific studies show.
2. The dealth penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, especially when time proves that the convicted murderer did not in fact murder anyone.
3. Until the state can undo the penalty, that penalty should be forbidden.
4. Public safety - serious violent offenders should be kept on a short leash throughout imprisonment, partial parole for work & experience reentry into 'society.'

5. Thou shalt not kill. It lists no exceptions. It is against the highest religious dogma, morality to say no killing, except if the state drafts you & arms you & puts you in harm's way.

No exceptions for public executioner, soldiers, police,husbands, wives.
At a time when police frustration is often scapegoated against dehumanized racial minorities.
The twelve year old climbing a cyclone fence to escape the police being shot several times in his back, permission to shoot any who dare to wear hoodies the way they're designed to be worn.

I've rambled too long, but it must be abolished, and instead Obama is escalating killing, for patriotic propaganda,
As to executing a person who perhaps couldn't even comprehend what his crime was, why be so heartless? Is there no room for mercy in USA domestic life?

Jane Mckenzie
Jane Mckenzie6 years ago

I agree that the death penalty is unjust. Whether innocent or guilty, the death penalty is not the way a civilized society deals with crime.
That a 'modern' state uses the 'Lennie' criteria is unbelievable. Come on Texas and get into the civilised world.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

I haven't read all the comments, but I'll point out to "timothy m.", that the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty does not base its reasoning on the injustice of the death penalty, on whether the suspect is innocent or guilty. The death penalty is inherently unjust. Wilson may have been guilty of murder. His IQ is 61. The death penalty is not a deterrent to murder. A majority of police chiefs in the U.S. concur with this observation. The death penalty is final, and many mistakes have been made in convictions.

Our sympathies are always with the victims and their families, but the death penalty is unjust. Whether innocent or guilty, the death penalty is not the way a civilized society deals with crime.

timothy m.
timothy m6 years ago


If the guy was innocent, why didn't his lawyers argue that instead of arguing his intellectual status?

He was intelligent enough to murder somebody for narcing on him. He was intelligent enough to be executed.

Stanley B.
Stanley Balgobin6 years ago

TEX-ASS THE JACK-ASS state f barbarous retards. Rick Perry should be executed for Capital Murder. Dick Cheyney, Karl Rove, Rumsfeld, for War Crimes; Spare Bush for stupidity. America is a fast declining nation, where her citizens are becoming fodder for the Vulture Capitalism that has poisoned US society and the citizens become victims of Corporate Greed. The Rich have one law for themselves, the poor are executed. This sanctioned heinous act can never be justified in a civil society.

Liliana G.
Liliana Garcia6 years ago

How can Texas get away with such a definition of mental retardation? What are college psychology departments for? Death penalty just adds to the murderers list, the supposed murderer PLUS all state officials that took the life of the murderer. This is sad, difficult and stirs controversy but a civilized society is supposed to face it and handle it in the best way possible, making people better human beings by not murdering a murderer or anybody else for that matter. ONLY SELF DEFENSE is the sole justification for taking somebody else's life.Retribution should be constructive not destructive. Prisoners can work in jail and pass some of its earnings to the bereaved for all the many years to come. I don't see how the image of a dying person can bring relief. Vengeance is no relief it is an emotional rewinding of the victim's death.

Random K.
.6 years ago

Terri, there is no proof that he was guilty. How is the family going to feel if the wrong man is killed, and the real murderer is free? Ever consider that in your rush to execute someone?

Terri M.
Terri M6 years ago

I see a lot of sympathy for executed Marvin Wilson but no inkling of compassion for victim Jerry Williams, his family or friends. Jerry Williams was murdered in November 1992. Three months from now, his family will be reminded of the 20 years that he has not be in their lives. And during that time, Mr. Wilson was getting three hots and a cot. THAT is despicable. I am not a fan of Texas, but I'm glad one state in this nation has the gumption to stop coddling murderers. Some of you really need to put bandages on your bleeding hearts before your ruin all your clothes.

Roger M.
Past Member 6 years ago

How is it intellectually tenable to say that murder is wrong so we're going to murder you?

David Fredericks
David Fredericks6 years ago

Capital punishment reminds us how uncivilized our society remains. This "eye for eye" stuff serves no purpose and is very expensive. Moreover I don't believe this fellow's I/Q was 61, nor should anybody who's ever personally known a person that severely retarded.