07 December 2009

Did Texas just execute a mentally retarded man?

On December 3, Texas executed Bobby Wayne Woods, who had been convicted of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl. His was certainly a horrific crime, but I'm wondering if the punishment was illegal as well.

You see, Woods's IQ has been measured at anywhere from the 60s to the 80s. And, in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that execution of the mentally retarded amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The generally accepted cut-off for mental impairment is an IQ of 70. So did Woods qualify as mentally retarded? Some tests said yes, other tests said no.

But the state of Texas apparently decided it would be best to err on the side of death.

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