Death by injection gurney.

Texas v. Robert Ladd

Last Update: January 28, 2015

What's at Stake

The American Civil Liberties Union represented Robert Ladd, an intellectually disabled man with an IQ of 67, who faced execution in Texas. The ACLU petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay of Robert Ladd's execution and to review the initial decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Ladd was executed by the state of Texas at 7:02 pm CT on Thursday, January 29, 2015.

In any other state in the country Ladd’s condition would have made him ineligible for execution. Texas, however, uses non-scientific factors to narrow the field of persons with intellectual disability who qualify for exemption from execution, drawn in part from the character of Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

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 have exempted Mr. Ladd from execution, as he was labeled “fairly obviously retarded” 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.

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