Archive | intellectual disabilities

29 January 2015 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Executes Robert Ladd

Tonight, the State of Texas carried out its second execution of the year, putting Robert Ladd to death for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in Tyler (Smith County).  Late this afternoon the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal that evidence of Ladd’s intellectual disabilities should bar his execution, in accordance with the Court’s own ruling in Atkins v. Virginia (2002).  According to the Associated Press, “the court also rejected an appeal in which Ladd’s attorney challenged whether the pentobarbital Texas uses in executions is potent enough to not cause unconstitutional pain and suffering.”

In Atkins v. Virginia, the Court left it to each state to set forth criteria for determining whether an individual is intellectually disabled.  As a result, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determined its own, unscientific standards, known as Briseno factors, which were based in part on the character of Lennie in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men.

Ladd’s execution occurred just two days after the State of Georgia put Warren Hill to death, in spite of evidence of his lifelong intellectual disabilities. Georgia’s standard requires proof of disabilities “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Here’s the press release from the ACLU, which represented Ladd in his final appeals:

Texas Executes Intellectually Disabled Man, Violating Constitution
 
January 29, 2015
CONTACT: Alexandra Ringe, 212-549-2582aringe@aclu.org
 
NEW YORK – Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was executed tonight at 7:02 pm 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.”

https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/texas-executes-intellectually-disabled-man-violating-constitution

Two executions are scheduled to take place in Texas next month.

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27 January 2015 ~ Comments Off

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halts execution of Garcia White, denies appeal of Robert Ladd

Earlier today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a reprieve to Garcia White. White was scheduled to be put to death on January 28th for the 1989 stabbing deaths of Bonita Edwards and her 16-year-old twin daughters, Annette and Bernette, in their Houston home. He was convicted by a Harris County jury in 1996.  The court did not provide a reason for the stay of execution.  Read more from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post.

Also today, the state’s highest criminal court denied the appeal of Robert Ladd, who is scheduled to be executed on Thursday for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in Tyler (Smith County). According to a press release from the ACLU, Ladd, who has been diagnosed with an I.Q. of 67, “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.”  Read more from the ACLU.

The ACLU has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of Robert Ladd’s execution, based on evidence of his intellectual disabilities. Attorneys also have asked the Justices to review the decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Their certiorari petition, stay motion, and other documents are available here: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd.

 

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23 January 2015 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas executes Arnold Prieto

The State of Texas carried out its first execution of 2015 on Wednesday, January 21, putting Arnold Prieto to death for the 1993 robbery and murders of Rudolfo and Virginia Rodriguez and Paula Moran, a family friend, at the home of the San Antonio couple.  Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez were relatives of Prieto’s two companions that night, brothers Guadalupe and Jessie Hernandez.  Jessie Hernandez, who was 16 at the time of the crime, is serving a life sentence, while Guadalupe, the alleged mastermind of the robbery and murders, was never charged due to insufficient evidence.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, “prosecutors offered Prieto a plea deal to testify against him [Guadalupe Hernandez] in exchange for two 30-year sentences” but Prieto rejected the offer.

The State of Texas is scheduled to carry out two more executions next week:

  • On January 28, Garcia White is scheduled to be put to death for the 1989 stabbing deaths of Bonita Edwards and her 16-year-old twin daughters, Annette and Bernette, in their Houston home. He was convicted in 1996.
  • On January 29, Robert Ladd is scheduled to be executed for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in Tyler (Smith County).  According to Amnesty International, a U.S. District Court judge held an evidentiary hearing in 2005 on Ladd’s claim that his intellectual disabilities should prohibit his execution.  In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v Virginia that individuals with intellectual disabilities are barred from execution.  The Court left it to each state, however, to set forth criteria for determining whether an individual is intellectually disabled.  The District Court judge later ruled that Ladd has “significantly sub-average intellectual functioning” but the evidence of his adaptive deficits was not compelling enough to grant relief.Learn more about his case from Amnesty International and take action to stop his execution by calling the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott.

Four executions have taken place nationwide to date in 2015: Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas each have put one person to death this year. Both Oklahoma and Georgia have scheduled executions for next week, as well.

 

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08 August 2014 ~ Comments Off

“The Failure of Mitigation” Studies the Last 100 Executed

In early June, Robert Smith, Sophie Cull, and Zoe Robinson published the results of their study, “The Failure of Mitigation,” in The Hastings Law Journal.  The study takes an in-depth look at the last 100 executions in America and focuses on evidence of the following mitigating factors: mental illness, youth, childhood trauma, and intellectual impairment.

The study found that eighty-seven percent of the executed offenders possessed some combination of these mitigating factors: “nearly nine of every ten executed offenders possessed an intellectual impairment, had not yet reached their twenty-first birthday, suffered from a severe mental illness, or endured marked childhood trauma.”

More specifically, “fifty percent of the last hundred executed defendants around the country suffered from complex trauma … severe physical abuse, sexual molestations, domestic violence, the violent loss of immediate family and chronic homelessness.”

When considering the age of the offender, the study provides this bleak fact: “more than one-third of executed offenders committed a capital crime before turning twenty-five—the age at which the brain fully matures.”

These mitigating factors create diminished culpability and should remove other individuals, beyond juveniles and the intellectually disabled, from the death penalty spectrum.

For more information, please refer to the following sites:

Infographic and information regarding the study from the Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/5800

Op-ed by Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. in The Washington Posthttp://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-ogletree-the-death-penalty-is-incompatible-with-human-dignity/2014/07/18/c0849dea-0e6b-11e4-b8e5-d0de80767fc2_story.html

Download the complete study from the Social Science Research Network: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2446950

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13 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

5th Circuit Grants Stay of Execution to Robert Campbell

BREAKING: The Fifth Circuit has just stayed tonight’s scheduled execution of Robert Campbell.
 
The Court’s order is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQRTdueVlpM2doVkE/edit?usp=sharing
 
Below is a statement from Robert C. Owen, one of Mr. Campbell’s attorneys:
 
“Today the Fifth Circuit has ruled that Texas may not proceed with the scheduled execution of Robert Campbell, a man whose lifelong mental retardation was not proven until new evidence, long hidden by prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, very recently came to light.
 
‘The Fifth Circuit’s decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public. Mr. Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation. Therefore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.  Given the state’s own role in creating the regrettable circumstances that led to the Fifth Circuit’s decision today, the time is right for the State of Texas to let go of its efforts to execute Mr. Campbell, and resolve this case by reducing his sentence to life imprisonment.  State officials should choose the path of resolution rather than pursuing months or years of further proceedings.”  
 
-Robert C. Owen, Attorney for Robert Campbell, May 13, 2014

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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 khoule@tcadp.org or 512-441-1808 (office) or 512-552-5948 (cell) or Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@SquireSanders.com 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 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQNkZ5SWVLWVFLRXM/edit?usp=sharing 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 (http://governor.state.tx.us/news/speech/10880/).  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:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQQlFnOVhVNUNEeE0/edit

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

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQUXlmbFhfaDZzdTA/edit

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

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZmFSMVBLcmpRcU0/edit

Here is the link to the CCA ruling and dissent:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQTXk5c1l1VGQzSHc/edit
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For more information, please contact Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.or512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948, or Laura Burstein at: at Laura.Burstein@SquireSanders.com 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.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQQlFnOVhVNUNEeE0/edit

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.

Sincerely,

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

Amy Mizcles, LMSW
Executive Director
The Arc of Texas

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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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12 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas Failed to Disclose Evidence that Man Facing Imminent Execution has Mental Retardation, According to Attorneys

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org or 512-441-1808 (office) or 512-552-5948 (cell)

Documents Show that Texas Failed to Disclose Evidence that Man Facing Imminent Execution has Mental Retardation, According to Attorneys

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Will Be Asked Today to Reconsider Clemency for Robert Campbell Based on New Evidence of Low I.Q. Test Scores that Were in the State’s Possession But Never Shared with Campbell’s Lawyers

(Austin, Texas, May 12, 2014) – Today, based on new information and evidence only recently uncovered in state files indicating that Robert Campbell is a person with mental retardation, and therefore ineligible for execution, attorneys will ask 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 on Tuesday, May 13, 2104 at 6 p.m. CT.

“It is an outrage that the State of Texas itself has worked to frustrate Mr. Campbell’s attempts to obtain any fair consideration of evidence of his intellectual disability,” said Robert C. Owen, an attorney for Mr. Campbell. “State officials affirmatively misled Mr. Campbell’s lawyers when they said they had no records of IQ testing of Mr. Campbell from his time on death row.  That was a lie.  They had such test results, and those results placed Mr. Campbell squarely in the range for a diagnosis of mental retardation.  Mr. Campbell now faces execution as a direct result of such shameful gamesmanship.”

According to Mr. Campbell’s attorneys, 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 that no 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 Mr. Campbell’s habeas petition:
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZmFSMVBLcmpRcU0/edit

Here is the link to the CCA ruling and dissent:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQTXk5c1l1VGQzSHc/edit

Mr. Campbell’s attorneys also plan to appeal directly to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has the authority to issue a one-time, 30-day stay of execution.

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For more information, please contact Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.or, 512-441-1808 (office), 512-552-5948.

 

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