I am just finishing edits on my sixth piece on the death penalty in the last two years for Pacific Standard. Here’s what I’ve written:
- First the Supreme Court established a better standard for determining whether someone was intellectually disabled (and thus protected from execution) by overturning the “Lennie” standard. Because Texas asked juries to compare people to “Lennie” from Of Mice and Men.
- But then Arkansas executed Ledell Lee, a man who was clearly disabled with fetal alcohol syndrome and possibly innocent. Few disability rights organizations (The Arc was an exception) seemed to care.
- That led me to ask just how many prisoners on death row were disabled? Answer: pretty much all of them.
- This year a tip from a friend showed me how “ethnic adjustments,” the knowledge that IQ tests are racist trash, are used to artificially raise the score of convicted prisoners of color to make them eligible for the death penalty.
- Then most recently I talked about Kwame Rockwell, a prisoner in Texas set to be the next disabled person executed in the U.S. He’s mentally ill, not intellectually disabled, so his protections aren’t as clear. His execution was halted at the last minute to re-assess competence though.
So what does all this mean about the state of the Death Penalty in the US in 2018? Check back with me at Pacific Standard next week.