An inmate in Hunstville, Texas was executed Tuesday (Aug. 7), despite his lawyer plea that his low IQ made him ineligible for the punishment. Marvin Wilson was sentenced to death for taking the life of a police informant, 20 years ago.
The 54-year-old was found to have an IQ of 61 back in 2004, which brought his mental competency into question. However, both the lower courts and the state attorney questioned the validity of the test, causing the Supreme Court to deny a request for a stay of execution, in the final hours before he was put to death.
Wilson was convicted in the 1992 murder of 21-year-old Jerry Williams. The killing occurred days after police seized 24 grams of cocaine from Wilson’s apartment. According to witness testimony, Wilson and another man—Andrew Lewis— carried out the crime. Williams met his demise outside of a convenience store for snitching on Wilson about the drugs. He was beaten plus shot in the head and neck, execution style. His body was found on the side of the road, the next day.
Wilson was arrested when he showed up to report to his parole officer stemming from his second robbery conviction, for which he served four of his 20-year sentence. He was sentenced to death for his part in Williams’ death, while Lewis was given life in prison. During his trial, Lewis’ wife pinpointed Wilson as the only person guilty of wrongdoing in the crime. “Don’t be mad at Andrew because Andrew did not do it,” she said, before announcing that Wilson confessed to her that he killed Williams.
In 2002 the Supreme Court outlawed the execution of mentally incompetent inmates, but left it up to the state to determine what constitutes mental competency. In his appeal, Wilson’s lawyer, Lee Kovarsky, said his client’s language and math skills were not above “an elementary school level,” and that he was unable to carry out adult tasks like paying bills, and couldn’t keep a job. On the contrary, Texas assistant attorney, Edward Marshall, accused Wilson of being “manipulative” and “deceitful when it suited his interest.” Based on his ability to exhibit independence when necessary, the state ruled him eligible to die for the crime. “Considering Wilson’s drug-dealing, street-gambler, criminal lifestyle since an early age, he was obviously competent at managing money, and not having a 9-to-5 job is no critical failure,” said Marshall. “Wilson created schemes using a decoy to screen his thefts, hustled for jobs in the community, and orchestrated the execution of the snitch, demonstrating inventiveness, drive and leadership.”
Kovarsky also requested further DNA testing on a gray hair belonging to a White person, found near the victim’s body, arguing that it did not belong to neither Wilson nor Lewis since they are both Black men.
In his final statement before being put to death via lethal injection, Wilson noted that he was a changed man. “Ya’ll do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint. Take me home, Jesus, take me home, Lord. ”
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