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Texas Court Denies Death Penalty Appeal of Intellectually Disabled Man

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-01-27 (Rev. 2015-01-30) - Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, denied stay of execution by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. For further information pertaining to this article contact: American Civil Liberties Union at www.aclu.org.

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Quote: "This case is indeed stranger than fiction. Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death."

Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was denied a stay of execution today by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Although in any other state he would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability, Ladd doesn't meet the Texas courts' standards to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled, which were drawn in part on the character Lennie Small in "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck.

Ladd will be executed by the state of Texas at 6:00 pm CT on Thursday, January 29, unless courts intervene.

"This case is indeed stranger than fiction. Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project and Ladd's attorney. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gaging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

The Supreme Court has twice ruled to protect the intellectually disabled from capital punishment:

Atkins v. Virginia (2002) and Hall v. Florida (2014).

Those decisions should exempt Mr. Ladd from the death penalty, as he was labeled "fairly obviously retarded" at age 13 by the Texas Youth Commission in 1970.

After the Atkins decision, the psychiatrist who had examined Mr. Ladd reviewed his notes and reaffirmed his initial diagnosis in an affidavit, stating his IQ test and "three separate interviews confirmed my diagnosis of mental retardation." At age 36, Mr. Ladd qualified for services at the Andrews Center in Tyler, Texas, which assists the intellectually disabled as well as the mentally ill.

"Robert Ladd's life is full of evidence of his intellectual disability, and he doesn't belong on death row," said Stull. "We will continue to ask the courts to uphold the protections of Atkins and Hall to spare him from execution."

Update, January 28, 2015, 1:47 PM ET

The ACLU has petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay of Robert Ladd's execution and to review the decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Certiorari petition, stay motion, and other documents are available here: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd

Update, January 30, 2015.

Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was executed at 7:02 CT in Huntsville, Texas. His death violates the Supreme Court's rulings that the Eighth Amendment prohibits executing the intellectually disabled as cruel and unusual punishment. In any other state Mr. Ladd would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability.

Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project and Mr. Ladd's attorney, had this comment:

"Texas aggressively pursued Mr. Ladd's execution, despite the fact that our constitution categorically prohibits the use of capital punishment against persons with intellectual disability. Mr. Ladd, whose IQ was 67, was executed because Texas uses idiosyncratic standards, based on stereotypes rather than science, to determine intellectual disability. His death is yet another example of how capital punishment routinely defies the rule of law and human decency.

"We are eager for a court to address the fact that Texas' unscientific standards can't be reconciled with the Supreme Court's decision in /Hall v. Florida, /mandating that states must use universal medical diagnostic practices rather than inaccurate and self-invented methods for determining intellectual disability. However, no future ruling can undo the unconscionable fact that tonight Texas ended the life of an intellectually disabled man who deserved the protection of the Constitution."

For more information about the case /Ex Parte Ladd/, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd

For information about the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment

Related Information:

  1. Scott Panetti - Questioning Cruel and Unusual Punishment - Thomas C. Weiss - (2014-12-03)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/editorials/political/questioning.php
  2. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Prison Conditions - Thomas C. Weiss - (2013-08-04)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/ada/prisons.php
  3. People with Intellectual Disabilities and the Prison System - Thomas C. Weiss - (2013-08-02)
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/cognitive/prison-system.php




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