No Excuses?

The good state of Texas has executed another convicted murderer. This time, the recipient of the State’s unforgiving brand of justice was Marvin Wilson, convicted in the shooting death of Jerry Robert Williams in 1992. What makes this execution unsettling — well, more unsettling than some others — is the fact that Wilson had an IQ of just 61, substantially below average, and had been declared “intellectually disabled” by a court-appointed neuropsychologist.

Certainly, intelligence — or lack thereof — is no excuse for murder. Even someone of severely limited intelligence can and should understand that taking another’s life is wrong. But is it also possible that such an individual may have less control over their actions, and may be less culpable? Assuming Wilson was actually guilty and was not just another victim of wrongful conviction (like hundreds of others who have been exonerated in recent years), might it not have been appropriate in this case for the State to temper justice with mercy?

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