Fact Check from State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
June 5, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Overwhelming Support for Banning Execution of Mentally Retarded

If Governor Rick Perry signs House Bill 236, Texas would join fourteen other states that forbid execution of the mentally retarded. Currently Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and the federal government ban execution of the mentally retarded. The Florida and Missouri Legislatures have passed related legislation now waiting for a signature from the governor. Thirty-eight states and the federal government have the death penalty. (Death Penalty Information Center, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/dpicmr.html)

Sixty-eight percent of Texans support the death penalty, yet only 19 percent of Texans support executing the mentally retarded. (University of Houston/Houston Chronicle poll, February 2001) Opposition to the execution of the mentally retarded has grown considerably. In 1989, opposition to the practice was 73 percent, compared to 81 percent opposition today. ("High court to hear retarded killer's case," Austin American Statesman, January 8, 1989)

Nationally, 75 percent oppose executing the mentally retarded. In Georgia, the first state to outlaw execution of the mentally retarded, 66 percent oppose the practice. In Florida and South Carolina, 71 percent oppose execution of the mentally retarded. In New York, 82 percent are opposed. ("The Penry Penalty," E.F. Reed, University Press of America)

In Texas, a number of publications -- including every major daily -- and organizations have called for a ban on executing the mentally retarded:

Amarillo Daily News
"Stupid is as stupid does for Texas jury system?" (Calls for banning the execution of the mentally retarded.), May 19, 2001

Austin American Statesman
"Mental retardation ruling shows Texas the right path," June 5, 2001
"Ban on executions of mentally retarded should become law," May 24, 2001
"Ensuring justice," (Legislature should approve a ban.), April 27, 2001
"Addressing concerns about death penalty," (Texans strongly support a ban.), April 2, 2001
"The busy death chamber," (Asks lawmakers to use Cruz case as catalyst for ending execution of mentally retarded.), August 11, 2000
"Taking small steps on death row," (Supports ending the practice.), May 25, 1999

Beaumont Enterprise
"Bills improve Texas justice this session," (Bill provides better standards for jury decisions.), May 31, 2001

Corpus Christi Caller Times
"Life or death for low-IQ killers?" (Calls on Governor Perry to sign ban.), May 18, 2001
"Executing retarded killers," (Calls for ban on barbarous practice.), March 9, 2001
"Killer legislation," (Calls for abolition of executing the mentally retarded.), January 18, 2001
"Question for the Legislature," (Calls for ban on execution of retarded.), December 18, 2000

Dallas Morning News
"Penry redux," (High court says Texas blew it again.), June 5, 2001
"Legislative Aftermath," (Calls on Governor to sign HB 236), May 30, 2001
"Death penalty," (Calling for compassion in system.), May 11, 2001
"Texas executions," (Urges that Texas not wait for Supreme Court to end execution of mentally retarded), March 28, 2001
"Legislative Watch," (Criminal with mental retardation should not be executed.), May 21, 1999
"Death Penalty," (Texas system not fair if it executes mentally retarded.), May 5, 1999

Houston Chronicle
"Life and death," (Perry 'suggested falsely' that Texas has safeguards for mentally retarded.), June 1, 2001
"After the Session," (Perry should be reasonable and sign HB 236), May 30, 2001
"Complications," (States the mentally retarded should not be subjected to the ultimate punishment.), February 6, 2001
"Condemnation," (Asks lawmakers to end execution of mentally retarded.), November 20, 2000
"Inhumane," (Texas should revive ban on execution of the mentally retarded.), May 8, 1999

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Mentality and penalty," (Calls for halt in execution of mentally retarded.), March 30, 2001
"Noted in passing," (Debunks argument that current law protects mentally retarded from execution.), May 22, 1999

San Antonio Express News
"Criminal justice reform took a leap this session," (Perry shouldn't wait for Supreme Court.), May 31, 2001
"Perry should sign bill that spares the retarded," May 25, 2001
"Execution of Penry should not happen," December 3, 2000
"Execution wrong penalty for mentally retarded," May 22, 1999

Waco Tribune Herald
"Spare retarded," June 1, 2001
"Bills worthy of law," (Perry needs to sign HB 236), May 30, 2001
"Life-death matters," (Calls for a humane system.), May 17, 2001

Groups that have endorsed House Bill 236, banning the execution of the mentally retarded:
American Association on Mental Retardation American Psychological Association Association for Retarded Citizens of the United StatesThe ARC of TexasTexas ImpactRoman Catholic Bishops of TexasTexas ACLUAssociation for Persons with Severe Handicaps American Association of University Affiliated Programs for the Developmentally Disabled American Orthopsychiatric Association National Association of Private Residential Resources National Association of Superintendents of Public Residential Facilities for the Mentally Retarded Mental Health Law Project National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems American Bar Association