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