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Texas uses Steinbeck’s “Lenny” to determine mental capacity for death penalty

Steinbecks: Leave Lennie alone

“The author’s family protests after Texas uses “Of Mice and Men” to evaluate whether the retarded can be executed

Last night Texas shocked the world with the execution of 54-year-old Marvin Wilson, a mentally retarded man with an IQ of 61. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Atkins v. Virginia, which banned executing the mentally disabled, the Court refused to grant a stay of execution just hours before the scheduled lethal injection.

While it’s no secret that Texas has an insatiable appetite for capital punishment (Wilson’s death marked the 245th inmate executed under Gov. Rick Perry), the state has gone to extreme lengths to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ban on executing the mentally retarded.

Despite having been diagnosed with mental retardation by a court-appointed neuropsychologist, Texas courts determined, based on unfounded and highly subjective standards, that Wilson was not mentally retarded and therefore was eligible for execution. Texas, unlike any other death penalty state, measures mental retardation using nonclinical standards invented by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Known as the “Briseño factors”, these standards have absolutely no basis in science or clinical application. Instead they were inspired by Lennie Small, the fictional migrant farm worker from the famous novel “Of Mice and Men,” written by the late Nobel Prize winning American author John Steinbeck.”

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