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US authorities execute two mentally disabled prisoners in one week



US authorities execute two mentally disabled prisoners in one week


Robert Ladd, convicted of murdering a 38-year-old woman in 1996, and Warren Hill, convicted of two murders

Rose Troup Buchanan
Friday 30 January 2015

An American man with an IQ so low as to be classed as technically disabled was executed by the state of Texas last night, after another mentally disabled prisoner was killed on Tuesday night.

Robert Ladd, who was sentenced to death for bludgeoning a mentally disabled woman to death in her flat in 1996, died by lethal injection at 7.02pm, 27 minutes after the dose was administered.

In his final minutes Ladd, who has an IQ of 67, apologies to the family of the woman he killed, before telling the warden: “Let’s ride.”

As the lethal drug dose took effect, 57-year-old Ladd is said to have told wardens: “Stings my arm, man.”

On Tuesday another mentally impaired inmate, Warren Hill, who has an IQ of 70, was executed in Georgia after last-minute appeals also failed.

Hill, 54, sentenced to death in 1990 after killing fellow prison inmate Joseph Handspike while serving a life sentence for the murder of girlfriend Myra Wright, was declined an appeal based on mental disability after a court ruled that his life showed example of “self-sufficiency”.

He declined to make a final statement and was pronounced dead at 7:55pm local time.

Hill's lawyer, Brian Kamer, condemned the state’s decision, claiming that Hill possessed the mental age of a “young boy,” and described the execution as an “abomination.”

Despite the US Supreme Court’s ruling in 2002 that executing disabled prisoners violated the US constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, individual states retain the leeway to determine the standards.

An IQ of under 70 has been official recognised as mentally disabled, a Human Rights Watch report notes that only two per cent of the American population meets this critera.

The same report also states the individuals with a mental age of under 70 can generally be considered as possessing the same mental age as children in the US third grade - or roughly eight to nine years old.

In 2003 Ladd was saved from execution after a last minute appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, who cited a Texas psychiatrist’s 1970 diagnosis that Ladd was “fairly obviously retarded”.

The decision was confirmed by a later affidavit and three further interviews with Ladd.

But, Texan courts subsequently argued – using John Steinbeck’s character Lennie from ‘Mice and Men’ - that Ladd did not meet the requirements for a pardon under mental disability.

The author’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, said he was “deeply troubled” by this use of his father’s work.

Campaigners have denounced the decision.

Texas executes more prisoners than any other American state. There are 10 further executions scheduled to take place this year. Since 1982 the state has executed 520 individuals, all of whom had been convicted of murder, by lethal injection at the Huntsville Unit.

Additional reporting from Associated Press