Archive | execution

10 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas executes Willie Trottie

This evening, September 10th, the State of Texas executed Willie Trottie. A Harris County jury sentenced him to death for the 1993 murders of his former girlfriend Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus, at the Canada family home in Houston. Canada’s mother and sister also were wounded in the attack.

The execution took place under a shroud of secrecy, as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still refuses to disclose its source for compounded pentobarbital, the sole drug used in executions here.  According to the Associated Press, “attorneys for Trottie contended the dose of pentobarbital for his lethal injection was past its effectiveness date and could subject him to unconstitutional ‘tortuous’ pain.”  The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

It was the first execution in Texas in four months and the state’s first since the botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.  Earlier in the day, the State of Missouri also carried out an execution, putting Earl Ringo, Jr. to death.  Both Texas and Missouri have executed eight people to date in 2014.

Harris County now accounts for 122 executions since 1982, more than any state in the country besides Texas and twice as many as any other county.

Harris County prosecutors have sentenced 294 people to death since 1976; there are approximately 100 inmates still on death row who were convicted in Harris County … more than one-­third of the current death row population. 

Read more about the case of Willie Trottie from the Associated Press and the Guardian.

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09 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas to Resume Executions on Wednesday with Secret Drug Supply

The State of Texas is scheduled to resume executions this Wednesday, September 10th, after an unusual four-month hiatus.  It if proceeds, the execution of Willie Trottie will be the first execution in Texas since April and the first here since the botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.

This execution will take place under a shroud of secrecy, as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still refuses to disclose its source for compounded pentobarbital, the sole drug used in executions here.  In an appeal filed today with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for Trottie contend that the lethal injection drugs that will be used on him have expired.  Read more from the Texas Tribune.  Earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice do not have to disclose information about the pharmacy or pharmacist now supplying the lethal injection drugs used in executions.  Read more from the Guardian.

A Harris County jury sentenced Willie Trottie to death for the 1993 murders of his former girlfriend Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus, at the Canada family home in Houston. Canada’s mother and sister also were wounded in the attack.

The State of Missouri has also scheduled the execution of Earl Ringo for Wednesday.  Texas, Florida and Missouri  each have carried out seven executions to date this year.  Read more from the Associated Press.

We encourage all Texans to attend a vigil in your community.

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23 July 2014 ~ Comments Off

Another Botched Execution – This Time in Arizona

Today’s execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona took nearly two hours as he repeatedly gasped and snorted, according to witnesses.  Some reports say that Wood gasped more than 600 times during the process.  In coverage by CNNa media witness from KSAZ likened Wood’s breathing to a “fish gulping for air” and said it was difficult for everyone in the room to watch.

The events in Arizona come less than three months after the horribly botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, which reignited a national conversation about the secrecy now surrounding lethal injection protocols throughout the country.  Legal challenges in Wood’s case sought to force the state to disclose the source of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.  Unlike states like Texas that use a single dose of pentobarbital, Arizona now uses the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone.  This was the same combination of drugs used in a problematic execution in Ohio in January.

Statement from Attorney for Joseph Wood Re: Tonight’s Bungled Execution

The following is a statement from Dale Baich, one of Joseph Wood’s attorneys, regarding today’s execution:

“The experiment using midazolam combined with hydromorphone to carry out an execution failed today in Arizona. It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and forty minutes. We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today. Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution. The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

-Dale Baich

-July 23, 2014

Read coverage of today’s events and background on the case from the Associated Press and the Arizona Republic.

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22 July 2014 ~ Comments Off

Retired Judges Support Appeal of Rodney Reed

The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Rodney Reed on January 14, 2015 for the 1996 murder and rape of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County. Since his initial trial in 1998, Reed has maintained his innocence, claiming that he had a consensual relationship with Stites and that he received poor representation from his original trial attorneys.

Reed’s execution was scheduled despite the fact that there are still DNA tests to be conducted. Both the defense and the prosecution agreed to further testing on several items, but the state refused to allow some additional items requested by the defense, including the murder weapon. Reed’s attorney, Bryce Benjet, argued, “This is a case with very real questions. Given the troubled history and troubled past [of the case], additional DNA evidence can ultimately undermine the rest of the evidence.” According to Judge Doug Shaver, there will be ample time to evaluate the evidence before the execution date.

On July 21, 2014, eight retired federal and state judges urged the U.S. Supreme Court to accept Reed’s appeal. Among them are Royal Ferguson of Texas, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Charles Baird, who served eight years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and four years as a state district judge in Austin. The judges are not taking a position on Reed’s innocence. They are instead focusing on the procedural errors of the appeals court that rejected Reed’s appeal in January. The judges believe that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was not the proper setting for the decisions that took place.  In their amicus brief, the judges write that “trial courts are the appropriate venue for developing a factual record and resolving questions of fact.”

For more information, please refer to the following articles from The StandDown Texas Project:


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13 June 2014 ~ Comments Off

Preliminary Autopsy Results from Botched Execution in Oklahoma

For Immediate Release: June 13, 2014
Contact: Laura Burstein at (202)

Oklahoma Execution Team Failed to Place IV in Clayton Lockett’s Vein, According to Preliminary Findings of Independent Autopsy

The Oklahoma execution team failed to set a properly functioning IV in Clayton Lockett’s femoral vein, according to preliminary findings released today of an independent autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph I. Cohen, M.D. The autopsy was performed in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 14, 2014, following the botched execution of Mr. Lockett in Oklahoma City on April 29, 2014. Dr. Cohen was retained by attorneys for Oklahoma death row prisoners. The preliminary findings can be accessed here: (

Despite the report’s findings that Mr. Lockett’s veins, both surface and deep, were in excellent shape “for the purpose of achieving venous access,” the execution team attempted to place the IV for the lethal injection execution into his femoral vein in the groin area, which is riskier, more difficult and more painful to place.

According to Dr. Cohen’s report, he found “skin punctures on the extremities and right and left femoral areas,” demonstrating that the execution team attempted to set IVs in both arms and both sides of Mr. Lockett’s groin. Dr. Cohen further found superficial and deep hemorrhages “indicative of attempted vascular access” and “the presence of vascular injury indicative of failed vascular catheter access.” The execution team’s attempts to insert the IV perforated the femoral vein.

Contrary to statements by the state, Mr. Lockett’s veins did not collapse or “blow out.” Rather, despite the excellent condition of Mr. Lockett’s veins, the execution team made numerous failed attempts to set an IV, eventually setting an improperly placed and ineffective IV in Mr. Lockett’s femoral vein. Dr. Cohen also notes the “unlikelihood” that dehydration could have played a role in compromising venous access.

There are serious questions about the training of the personnel who performed the execution. The Department of Corrections timeline states that the IV was set by a phlebotomist, which was confirmed by the Governor’s office, but when Tulsa World questioned the assertions, both state agencies reversed their positions and said it was an EMT, whose name has not been revealed.  ( Oklahoma’s execution protocol allows for a central line, such as an IV to a femoral vein, only if set by a physician, not a phlebotomist.

“The improper placement of the IV used in Mr. Lockett’s execution is just one factor that caused his prolonged and painful death,” said Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. “The three-drug protocol that was used exacerbated the pain and suffering that Mr. Lockett faced by needlessly paralyzing him and subjecting him to the pain of potassium chloride. Moreover, the state had no plan for contingencies in the event that the execution did not go as planned, as clearly happened here.”

“Lack of transparency is a pervasive problem with execution procedures,” Ms. McCracken commented. “During Mr. Lockett’s execution, the Department of Corrections closed the blinds to the execution chamber so that the witnesses and press could not see what was happening for the 24 minutes leading up to the announcement that Mr. Lockett had died. Nothing is known about what happened during this timeframe, and it is one of many questions Dr. Cohen seeks answers to in order to complete his independent autopsy.”

The additional information that Dr. Cohen seeks includes:

·       Documentation of tests and procedures performed by the State of Oklahoma’s Chief Medical Examiner’s office;

·       Autopsy, toxicology, histology and other reports generated by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office;

·       Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ policies and procedures pertaining to lethal injection executions;

·       Documentation pertaining to Mr. Lockett’s execution;

·       Mr. Lockett’s complete medical records and prison records;

·       Information about cell extraction, including use of physical restraint or use of electrical conductive devices.

·       Occurrence and treatment of injuries to Mr. Lockett prior to execution;

·       Records pertaining to the transport and storage of Mr. Lockett’s body following the execution.

“Dr. Cohen has begun a critically important inquiry into the botched execution of Clayton Lockett,” says Dr. Mark Heath, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Columbia University and expert in lethal injection executions. “However, to complete this inquiry, Dr. Cohen will need the state to provide extensive additional information beyond what the body itself revealed. I hope that Oklahoma provides everything he asks for so that we can all understand what went so terribly wrong in Mr. Lockett’s execution.”

More information about Dr. Cohen can be accessed here:

To speak with medical and other experts in lethal injection, please contact Laura Burstein at (202) 626-6868;


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13 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

Just In: Challenge to Texas Lethal Injection Secrecy Filed with U.S. Supreme Court re Tonight’s Scheduled Execution

For more information, please contact Laura Burstein at: at or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c).


Today, attorneys for Robert James Campbell, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CT tonight in Texas, filed a stay motion and an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to address the constitutionality of the secrecy surrounding Texas’ lethal injection drugs, particularly in light of the recent horrific botched execution in Oklahoma. Mr. Campbell seeks information about the source and testing of the drugs Texas plans to use in his lethal injection execution.  As the appeal notes, it was only recently, with its purchase of the most recent batch of lethal injection drugs, that Texas began to follow the path of secrecy shared by Oklahoma in the weeks leading up to Mr. Lockett’s horrific death.

A link to the appeal can be accessed here:

Maurie Levin, one of Mr. Campbell’s attorneys, commented, “The extreme secrecy which surrounded lethal injection in Oklahoma prior to Mr. Lockett’s execution led directly to disastrous consequences. This is a crucial moment when the courts must recognize that death row prisoners can no longer rely on the State’s bald assertion that the events in Oklahoma won’t repeat themselves in Texas.  Unless the courts demand that Texas proceed with a commitment to transparency and accountability, there is an unacceptable risk that other prisoners will be subjected to the torturous death suffered by Mr. Lockett.”

An appeal filed yesterday with the Fifth Circuit was denied (, but had urged that court, as a federal judge did on Friday, to reconsider its jurisprudence regarding lethal injection and secrecy. That appeal noted that Mr. Campbell’s “8th Amendment rights can only be protected if he is provided the information required to ensure a humane, non-torturous execution.”  The appeal also stated: “By depriving [Mr. Campbell] … of the means to determine whether his rights will be violated, Defendants are effectively nullifying those rights.” (p. 2).  The Fifth Circuit’s opinion allotted one page to the analysis of the issues presented, and did not mention the events in Oklahoma or Mr. Lockett’s botched execution.

The decision of the District Court on Friday, May 9, 2014 was far more contemplative in its ruling, writing:

“The horrific narrative of Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014 requires sober reflection on the manner in which this nation administers the ultimate punishment. While the law currently does not permit injunctive relief, this Court urges the Fifth Circuit to reconsider its jurisprudence that seems to shield crucial elements of the execution process from open inquiry.”

Texas’ lethal injection protocol calls for a single dose of pentobarbital. Pentobarbital is no longer legally available in FDA-regulated form, but only from compounding pharmacies, which operate outside of FDA oversight, making it impossible to know if the drugs have been properly prepared and tested in order to ensure the execution will be carried out in a manner that comports with the Constitution. In addition, documents show that TDCJ is in possession in midazalom, the first drug used in the botched execution of Mr. Locket:

Executions in Oklahoma and South Dakota that used compounded pentobarbital appeared to have had serious problems. On January 9, 2014, Oklahoma executed Michael Wilson, presumably also using compounded pentobarbital as the first drug in the three-drug formula. Prior to losing consciousness, Mr. Wilson cried out, “I feel my whole body burning.” Those were his last words. The State has refused to provide any information about what might have gone wrong in Mr. Wilson’s execution, but expert pharmacologist Larry D. Sasich, PharmD, MPH, FASHP, signed a sworn affidavit stating, “It is my opinion that Mr. Wilson’s reaction is consistent with contaminated pentobarbital sodium injection.”

Dr. Sasich’s affidavit is here:

The sworn statement of another anesthesiologist, Dr. Waisel, is here:

In October 2012, in South Dakota, Eric Robert was executed using compounded pentobarbital. Witnesses reported that he “appeared to clear his throat and gasp heavily, at which point his skin turned a blue-purplish hue. Mr. Robert opened his eyes and they remained open until his death, and his heart continued beating for 10 minutes after he ceased to breathe.”

On April 14, 2014, in Texas, Jose Villegas was executed with compounded pentobarbital.  “As a journalist witness wrote:  “Just as the dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, ‘It does kind of burn.  Goodbye.’  He gasped several times, then began breathing quietly. (pp. 11-12 of the civil rights complaint: ).” Additionally, there have been multiple documented problematic executions in Texas via lethal injection, detailed on pp. 13-14 of the civil rights complaint.

Additionally, Mr. Campbell’s case contains other areas of concern including the fact that he is a person with intellectual disability, and that the state failed to disclose evidence of testing which showed his intellectual disability. The Arc, a national organization for individuals with intellectual and developmental disability, issued a letter yesterday condemning Mr. Campbell’s execution, which can be accessed here: A press release detailing more about Mr. Campbell’s intellectual disability is here:

For more information, including information about the Texas lethal injection protocol, drugs in the TDCJ’s possession, background on previous disputes between TDCJ and pharmacies, do not hesitate to contact counsel for Mr. Campbell, Maurie Levin at and (512) 294-1540.

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13 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Robert Campbell Appeal to TX Governor Rick Perry to Grant Reprieve

For Immediate ReleaseMay 13, 2014

Contact: Kristin Houlé at or 512-441-1808 (office) or 512-552-5948 (cell) or Laura Burstein at or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c)

Governor Perry is Asked for 30-Day Reprieve for Robert Campbell,a Person with Mental Retardation Scheduled for Execution Tonight

State Wrongfully Withheld Evidence of Low I.Q

(Austin, Texas, May 13, 2014) – Today, attorneys for Robert James Campbell asked Texas Governor Rick Perry to issue a 30-day reprieve of execution to allow time for the Board of Pardons and Paroles to thoughtfully consider his application for commutation of his death sentence to life without parole on the ground that he is intellectually disabled and therefore constitutionally exempt from execution. The letter, which can be accessed here states:

“In public statements, Governor Perry, you have said that you “believe it is wrong to execute persons with mental retardation” and that you share “strong moral sentiment against executing the mentally retarded . . . with most Texans.”  See Office of the Governor Rick Perry, “(Speech) House Bill 236,” June 17, 2001 (  You have also maintained that ‘“we do not allow for the execution of the mentally retarded today in Texas.”’  Id.
On Monday, May 12, 2014, based on new information and evidence only recently uncovered in state files indicating that Mr. Campbell is a person with mental retardation, and therefore ineligible for execution, attorneys asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider its recommendation against clemency for Mr. Campbell. Mr. Campbell is scheduled to be executed in Texas today at 6 p.m. CT.

According to legal filings and in the stay request to Governor Perry, Mr. Campbell’s attorneys point out that during prior state and federal judicial proceedings, the State of Texas failed to disclose two prior I.Q. test scores that tended to prove Mr. Campbell’s intellectual disability.  The Harris County District Attorney’s Office did not provide counsel with public school records, including the results of a score of 68 from an I.Q. test administered to Mr. Campbell when he was a schoolchild.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice similarly failed to disclose that Mr. Campbell scored a 71 on an I.Q. test administered by a state-employed prison psychologist shortly after Mr. Campbell arrived on death row at age 19.  Even more egregious is the fact that TDCJ flatly told Mr. Campbell’s attorney in 2003 thatno such IQ tests existed for death row prisoners.

An I.Q. test score of 70 or below is generally accepted as “significantly subaverage intellectual functioning” necessary to diagnose intellectual disability.  According to Mr. Campbell’s attorneys, every piece of substantial evidence supports this diagnosis, and a comprehensive evaluation by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – has now confirmed it.

Mr. Campbell faces imminent execution despite the fact that no court has given meaningful consideration to extensive evidence that he is intellectually disabled. Unless the Board intervenes, Texas may execute a man who is mentally retarded, in violation of the Supreme Court’s now decade-old ban on such executions.

A powerful dissenting opinion issued last week by Judge Elsa Alcala of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) correctly called the evidence of Mr. Campbell’s mental retardation ‘compelling.’  She zeroed in on the fundamental unfairness of the court’s decision to reject his claim – the reason why this evidence was not available in 2003, when the CCA first turned away Mr. Campbell’s mental retardation claim.

In her dissent, Judge Alcala states, “It would be unjust to penalize [Mr. Campbell] for not uncovering such a falsehood previously, when he had no basis to believe that a falsehood had been conveyed to him. . . . This Court should not base its decisions that determine whether a person will live or be executed based on misinformation or wholly inadequate information.”

Here is the link to the letter from The Arc to Governor Perry:

Here is the link to the Request for Reconsideration to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:

Here is the link to Mr. Campbell’s habeas petition:

Here is the link to the CCA ruling and dissent:

For more information, please contact Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.or512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948, or Laura Burstein at: at or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411(c).


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12 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

BREAKING: Gov. Perry Asked by the Arc to Stop Tuesday Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man

The Arc, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, just delivered the following letter to TX Governor Perry.

You’ll also find a press release from the Arc below.

May 12, 2014

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78757
RE:  Executive Clemency, Commutation of Death Sentence to Life Imprisonment for Robert Campbell

Dear Governor Perry, Chairman Owens, and Board Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:

We write on behalf of The Arc of the United States to urge that, on the basis of his intellectual disability (ID), the death sentence of Robert Campbell be commuted to life without possibility of parole.

In its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the special risk of wrongful execution faced by persons with ID (formerly termed “mental retardation”) and banned the execution of persons with ID as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.  536 U.S. 304.

News reports indicate that Mr. Campbell has been found by a highly qualified psychologist to have a diagnosis of intellectual disability with an IQ of 69.  Additional evidence suggests the state of Texas and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice withheld two prior IQ tests showing an IQ of 68 from a test during elementary school, and 71 from his prison records.  We note Judge Alcala’s statement in her dissenting opinion: “It now falls to the federal courts and Governor Perry to ensure that Mr. Campbell, a person with mental retardation, will not be executed as a result of this disturbing violation by State officials of his most basic due process rights.”

The actions of state officials have created a gross miscarriage of justice regarding counsel’s efforts to appeal Mr. Campbell’s sentence.  The Arc is committed to seeking lawful outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities and will continue working to ensure that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on this issue is abided by in jurisdictions across the country.

The Arc is a non-profit organization which, for over 60 years, has dedicated itself to altering perceptions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to the education of the public about the true potential of persons with this diagnosis.  Over the decades, The Arc has advocated for the passage of state and federal legislation on behalf of people with disabilities and established a broad network of state and local chapters that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the country.  In addition to our longstanding interest in actively seeking justice in death penalty cases involving individuals with intellectual disabilities, The Arc of the United States recently received a grant from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance to start The National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD).  Backed by the knowledge of dedicated criminal justice professionals, we urge you to prevent a miscarriage of justice and commute the death sentence of Robert Campbell to life without possibility of parole.


Peter V. Berns
Chief Executive Officer
The Arc of the United States

Amy Mizcles, LMSW
Executive Director
The Arc of Texas


For Immediate Release

May 12, 2014

Contact: Sarah Bal; bal@thearc.org202.600.3494

The Arc Responds to the Scheduled Execution of Robert Campbell

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement about the scheduled execution of Robert Campbell, an individual with intellectual disability (ID). Campbell is scheduled to be executedtomorrow (Tuesday, May 13) at 6 pm in Texas, despite evidence showing he has ID. It has been reported that the state of Texas and The Texas Department of Criminal Justice withheld two prior IQ tests within the range for ID, showing an IQ of 68 from a test during elementary school, and 71 from his prison records. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in the Atkins v. Virginia case that executing inmates with ID is unconstitutional because it violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Robert Campbell’s appeal despite clear evidence showing that he has intellectual disability. To ignore experts and cross the line drawn by a more than decade-old Supreme Court ruling shakes the foundation of our legal system for people with intellectual disabilities.  It is unconscionable that key evidence about Mr. Campbell’s IQ was withheld in this life or death situation. The Arc asks the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to take up this case immediately to ensure that Mr. Campbell’s disability is taken into account and justice can truly be served.

“The Arc is committed to fighting for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and will continue our legal advocacy work to make sure the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on this issue is abided by in jurisdictions across the country,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Through a two-year grant for $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), The Arc is developing the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability. This project is creating a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), whose disability often goes unrecognized. Providing accurate, effective and consistent training for criminal justice professionals is critical.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 700 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.


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