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View Diary: Man with 51 IQ held for 30 years without proper trial (79 comments)

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  •  Only no harm if you think incompetent or (10+ / 0-)

    illegal application of our Constitutional rights doesn't matter.  Texas is also notorious for convicting and possibly executing innocent people as well. A new Trial with a competent attorney would give him the opportunity to raise defenses related to his mental state. With an IQ in that range it's easy to imagine that his abilities to meet legal standards for a conviction of first degree murder are impaired. If so, and he is only guilty of a lesser homicide then he wouldn't still be in jail necessarily. It's one of my frustrations with the people upset by the Bradley Manning situation. Our legal system didn't just start being unfair when he was arrested. And the things that have happened to him are not as bad as things that happen to other people accused of crime every day. That doesn't make it right. But "fixing" the Bradley Manning situation shouldn't make anyone feel better about the system either.

    "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

    by stellaluna on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:56:38 AM PST

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    •  facts not in evidence (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aspe4, VClib

      I don't believe there was a competency-of-counsel objection in the habeas petition.

      •  No Im not saying there was poor lawyering at (0+ / 0-)

        the first trial. Though a person could be forgiven if they made that assumption given the many horrible examples of ineffective assistance that come out of Texas. I was saying there could be a different result at a second trial. That is, one that wouldn't result in a life sentence. What we know now about cognitive disabilities and how they impact the ability to form the specific intent to kill, especially to deliberate, could provide a first phase, or guilt/innocence defense that I seriously doubt was raised at his original trial. Not because of ineffective assistance but because of changes both in psychology and the forensic application of those changes.  The fact is, with an IQ of 51 he isn't even death sentence eligible now. A conviction of a lesser included offense would give him a sentence that would make it possible that he wasn't any longer likely to be in jail either way, as the comment I was responding to mentioned. As far as counsel's effectiveness goes, I'm sure the commutation felt like a victory at the time. But, as he is entitled to a new trial, and if the State chooses to retry the case, I think it is not a forgone conclusion that he will end up with the same result.

        "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

        by stellaluna on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 12:16:17 PM PST

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    •  I Think He's Still Capable of Forming Malice (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Adam B, JesseCW

      to be convicted of murder, however, his IQ may make him unable to assist his lawyer in a defense. I don't think low IQ alone can negate intent to kill and malice aforethought. But who knows, maybe a jury would disagree but the defendant never got the chance to see.  

      "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

      by Aspe4 on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 06:27:25 AM PST

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      •  Yes, but in most states you can have malice but (0+ / 0-)

        Not premeditation or deliberation and then have some other form of homicide other than first degree murder.  Maybe second degree murder. IQ can negate the intent to kill if the person isn't able to deliberate. Depending on how case law defines deliberation, a person's cognitive deficiencies can affect that.  His ability to assist his attorney would go to a different, but important, issue--competency to stand trial. Most people with IQ deficiencies, even in that low range, are ultimately found competent to stand trial. Though, in my opinion they shouldn't be.

        "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

        by stellaluna on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 12:22:49 PM PST

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        •  Malice aforethought isn't an element. (0+ / 0-)

          He was convicted of capital murder. Texas doesn't have the traditional felony/first degree/second degree distinction, but basically capital murder is first- or second-degree murder comited during the course of a dangerous felony.

          All the State would need to prove is intent to kill or cause serious injury during the course of a robbery. Diminished capacity wouldn't normally preclude forming the necessary intent.

          Competency is probably the bigger issue, but that usually comes up in the context of mental illness. Someone with the mental age of a 9-year-old can still truthfully answer an attorney's questions, whereas someone with severe paranoia or who is completely delusional cannot.

          •  It has been my experience as well that IQ rarely (0+ / 0-)

            forms the basis for a claim related to competency. Though I generally think that there is more to assisting counsel at trial than answering questions truthfully and understanding the nature of the proceedings, I always find that the Courts don't agree with me.

            I am interested to know if you are saying that the only capital murder cases are ones where the defendant is guilty by virtue of of the felony murder rule. I know many states include felony murder in the category of first degree murders but didn't know that Texas doesn't have a separate capital offense that goes to state of mind. I can't tell if that is what you are saying because in most states intent to kill is still distinguished by premeditation and deliberation.

            "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

            by stellaluna on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 04:11:37 AM PST

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          •  And yes, if there is felony murder diminished (0+ / 0-)

            capacity is not a defense. I don't what the jury was instructed on and what they found the defendant guilty of in this case.

            "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

            by stellaluna on Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 04:13:49 AM PST

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