For the first time since 1997, Texas has executed two men in one day. One of them, say death penalty opponents, was retarded and should never have been on death row.
Brian Keith Roberson, 36, was put to death by injection shortly after 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday and Oliver David Cruz, 33, followed him to the death chamber about an hour later.
Earlier Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to deny Cruz’s emergency application for a reprieve and rejected a separate appeal from him. The high court then voted 7-2 to refuse to block Roberson’s execution.
Cruz’s case garnered national attention because of his low IQ. Cruz was convicted of the 1988 abduction, rape and fatal stabbing of a 24-year-old woman at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, but he tested as low as 63 on IQ tests. That alone would have made him ineligible for the death penalty in 12 states — but not Texas.
Roberson was condemned for the 1986 stabbing deaths of an elderly Dallas couple.
A Horrific Crime
Cruz, who confessed to raping and killing Kelly Donovan, blamed the 1988 attack on drug use that began at age 13. He said he and another defendant, who testified against him in exchange for a 65-year prison term, had taken LSD and drank “a couple of bottles of liquor.”
“This was such a horrific, horrific crime,” said Susan Reed, Bexar County District Attorney. “This woman was stabbed 20 times. It was very clear that the defendant knew what he did was wrong. This is not a question of ‘did he know right from wrong.’” But Cruz’s attorney, Jeffrey Pokorak, argued that a jury was not given enough information about his client’s lifelong mental impairment. An IQ under 70 is considered at least mildly retarded, but prosecutors noted that Cruz had scored above 70 before.
Pokorak said the mentally retarded often do not understand their rights or the legal system.
“They confess when other people don’t, confess, give up evidence when other people don’t give up evidence,” Pokorak told ABCNEWS’ Good Morning America. “This is a perfect example of what happens to someone who is mentally retarded in our legal system.”
But the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, in twin 18-0 votes earlier this week that also included the execution of Roberson, refused to recommend to Republican presidential nominee and Texas Gov. George W.Bush that he halt Wednesday’s executions, the 27th and 28th in Texas this year.
A Recurring Issue for Bush