The legal issue of whether a mentally retarded man could be sentenced to death or not and what constitutes mental retardation to the extent of automatically barring execution has once again come up with Texas executing a man with below average IQ.
Bobby Wayne Woods, 44, was administered a lethal injection after he was found guilty of raping and murdering his girlfriend's 11-year-old daughter, and after his appeal to the US Supreme Court was rejected. His lawyers had argued in the appeal that Woods could not be executed because he was mentally retarded and as per the 2002 ruling of the Supreme Court the mentally ill could not be put to death. However, the Supreme Court did not find it fit to intervene.
The tests Woods was put to while he was in prison found his IQ as low as 68, which is lower than the widely accepted limit of 70 for mental impairment. The State, however, relied on the tests that were conducted on Woods as a child. These tests put his IQ at 86. Although the Supreme Court ruled seven years ago that it was illegal to sentence to death those who were mentally retarded, the individual States are still free to decide as to what they consider 'mental impairment' for disallowing death sentences. The Court in the present case said that the IQ level of 70 was just an indicator and not a legal limit of mental impairment for the purpose of barring death sentences.
The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, argued the unreliability of the IQ tests before the Supreme Court saying, "The only experts to ever conclude that Woods was mentally retarded did so after he had committed this murder and had motivation to underperform."
Woods' prosecutor, Richard Hattox, also defended the execution saying, "Woods testified, and the jury watched him reason and think and debate with me and his own lawyers. If he was going to claim mental retardation, having him testify was a mistake, because that took away any doubt".
After abducting Sarah Patterson and her brother, Cody, Woods raped Sarah and slit her throat while Cody was badly beaten but managed to survive.