Posted on 9/26/16

Marvin Lee Wilson and Andrew Lewis confronted and then murdered 21-year-old Jerry Robert Williams outside a convenience store in Beaumont, Texas in 1992. According to eyewitnesses, Wilson stood over Williams and beat him, saying, “What do you want to be a snitch for? Do you know what we do to a snitch? Do you want to die right here?” Williams managed to run away from Wilson and made it across the street to a field, where Wilson and Andrews caught up to him. Wilson and Andrews forced Williams into the car and gunshots were heard. Police discovered his body the next morning. The autopsy showed that he died from close range gunshots to the head and neck.

Williams was a confidential informant for the police department and provided a tip that resulted in the arrest of Marvin Lee Wilson and Andrew Lewis for cocaine possession. A jury sentenced Wilson to death for the crime, and he appealed, arguing that his intellectual development was deficient, which made him “intellectually disabled” under the law and thus exempt from execution. The highest court found that Wilson did not suffer from intellectual disability, and the state of Texas proceeded with Wilson’s execution by lethal injection on August 7, 2012. Prior to his execution, Wilson’s IQ test showed that he had an IQ of 61—nine points below Texas’s benchmark score of 70 for intellectual incapacity and low enough to be considered “intellectually disabled.”

Of Mice and Men Test

According to Texas courts, an individual only reaches the level of intellectual disability that would preclude the state from carrying out an execution if he or she displays certain descriptive character traits. If a person exhibits street-savvy traits then, under legal theory, that person is not intellectually disabled.

The Texas Supreme Court cited the character Lennie Small from John Steinbeck’s classic novel Of Mice and Men as a paradigm for intellectual disability. Lennie’s personality is like that of a child. He is innocent and intellectually handicapped. While he acts with great loyalty to George Milton, he lacks true comprehension of loyalty. Therefore, he often does not mean to do the things that get him into trouble and has no conscience to define his actions in terms of guilt. Lennie only defines them in terms of consequences, like “George is going to give me hell” or “George won’t let me tend the rabbits.” He is devoted to George and tries to follow George’s commands, but that is the whole of his intellectual abilities.

As a result, despite Wilson falling below standard intellectual deficiency in many professional circles, he nonetheless lacked sufficiently disability to be exempted from execution. In other words, Wilson did not satisfy the Lennie Small criminal liability test for intellectual disability.

If you are accused of murder, you need to protect your rights. Texas criminal law sets high standards for avoiding criminal liability. Therefore, you need a lawyer who is knowledgeable and will aggressively fight on your behalf. Contact the law firm of Christopher Abel, a board-certified criminal defense attorney.


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