Texas Court Denies Death Penalty Appeal of Intellectually Disabled Man

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Alexandra Ringe, 212-549-2582, aringe@aclu.org

Texas Court Denies Death Penalty Appeal of Intellectually Disabled Man

Court Standards for Determining Intellectual Disability Drawn From Novella 'Of Mice and Men'

NEW YORK - UPDATE: The ACLU has petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay of Robert Ladd's execution and to review the decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Our certiorari petition, stay motion, and other documents are available here: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd

Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled person with an IQ of 67, was denied a stay of execution today by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Although in any other state he would be considered ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability, Ladd 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. Ladd will be executed by the state of Texas at 6:00 pm CT on Thursday, January 29, unless courts intervene.

"This case is indeed stranger than fiction. Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project and Ladd's attorney. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

The Supreme Court has twice ruled to protect the intellectually disabled from capital punishment: Atkins v. Virginia (2002) and Hall v. Florida (2014). Those decisions should exempt Mr. Ladd from the death penalty, as he was labeled "fairly obviously retarded" at age 13 by the Texas Youth Commission in 1970. After the Atkins decision, the psychiatrist who had examined Mr. Ladd reviewed his notes and reaffirmed his initial diagnosis in an affidavit, stating his IQ test and "three separate interviews confirmed my diagnosis of mental retardation." At age 36, Mr. Ladd qualified for services at the Andrews Center in Tyler, Texas, which assists the intellectually disabled as well as the mentally ill.

"Robert Ladd's life is full of evidence of his intellectual disability, and he doesn't belong on death row," said Stull. "We will continue to ask the courts to uphold the protections of Atkins and Hall to spare him from execution."

For more information about the case Ex Parte Ladd, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/ex-parte-ladd

For information about the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, visit: https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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