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Man May Face Execution After Attorney Botched Paperwork Filing
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 3, 2006

AUSTIN, TEXAS--Marvin Lee Wilson could face execution in a Texas prison because of a paper-filing blunder.

Wilson, 47, was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in 1998 for kidnapping and murdering a police drug informant who had provided information leading to Wilson's earlier arrest for cocaine possession.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing convicts who have mental retardation is banned as "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court, however, did not provide any guidance to states that have a death penalty on how to define mental retardation.

In Texas death row cases, judges must consider whether an inmate lacks fundamental social and practical skills and has "significantly subaverage" intelligence, using as a benchmark an I.Q. of 70 or below. Judges must also determine whether both conditions existed before the convict was 18 years of age.

Even though Wilson's attorneys presented evidence indicating that he had IQ scores ranging from 61 to 75, a state district court judge in August 2004 agreed with prosecutors that the nature of Wilson's crime was proof in itself that he had no intellectual disability.

Three months later, on November 10, 2004, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals turned down Wilson's state appeal.

Texas law does not allow inmates to file appeals with state courts and federal courts at the same time. So, Wilson's attorney had to wait until after the Texas appeals court made its decision before filing an appeal to the federal 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 placed a one-year limit on federal appeals.

That meant that Wilson's attorney had just two days to file the federal appeal. He missed that deadline by one day.

On December 13 of this year, the federal appeals court rejected Wilson's appeal because it was filed late, even though, it said, on the surface it appeared he might have had a valid case.

"However harsh the result may be -- particularly in a death penalty case involving a petitioner who has made a prima facie showing of mental retardation -- Congress acted deliberately in enacting a strict limitations period."

No execution date has been set.

Wilson's attorney may try to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. At the same time, his supporters are expected to put pressure on Governor Rick Perry to commute Wilson's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"Date Missed, Court Rebuffs Low-I.Q. Man Facing Death" (New York Times)
"Editorial: Death by Technicality? Supreme Court should review Texas case" (Dallas Morning News)
"Death by technicality: Missed filing deadline not a valid reason to proceed with execution of mentally retarded inmate" (Houston Chronicle)
"For justice's sake, Texas can't let this execution take place" (Austin American-Statesman)
"Rushing to execute in Texas" (New York Times)

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