Press Release from State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Supreme Court Rules Texas Death Penalty Instructions on Mental Retardation Unconstitutional

(Austin)// The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the instructions given to a Texas jury in a death penalty case involving mental retardation are unconstitutional.

"Today's Supreme Court ruling is further evidence that the time has come for Texas to simply ban the execution of the mentally retarded.

"The Supreme Court ruling was explicit -- the standards in place for the second Penry case were too confusing and did not protect the rights of the mentally retarded. Since that time, we've cobbled together new standards and procedures, but there is no guarantee that those will meet constitutional muster either. It is time for us to end the questions and just ban the execution of the mentally retarded.

"I believe that today's ruling undercuts arguments against banning the execution of the mentally retarded and makes it imperative that we show leadership on this issue now. Opponents of a ban have said we should wait for the Supreme Court to act. Must we wait once again for the Supreme Court before we finally do what's right?

"Texas has tried -- and failed -- for a decade to address this issue. We've dodged this issue long enough. It is time for Texas to stop defending the indefensible and make a clear, moral stand by banning the execution of the mentally retarded."