It is Thursday, December 03, 2009, and as I write these words, Bobby Wayne Woods is alive. If you are reading this on December 4, 2009 or later, there is a strong likelihood that he will no longer be so, having been executed by the State of Texas for a grisly murder he committed in 1997.
Amy Goodman and her cohorts at Democracy Now!, the voice of American Marxism, donâ€™t think Mr. woodsÂ should be executed. Are they convinced of his innocence? Hardly. The evidence against him is irrefutable. The fact is, those who oppose capital punishment generally, and the execution of Woods in particular, have put forth the argument that Woods should be spared because he is â€œpossibly retarded,â€ and the Supreme Court has forbidden executing mentally retarded prisoners, no matter how heinous the crime.
Here is Goodman on the pending execution:
DEMOCRACY NOW!: Texas Poised to Execute Possibly Retarded Prisoner
And the state of Texas is set to execute a man tonight who may be mentally retarded despite a 2002 Supreme Court ruling that bans the execution of mentally retarded prisoners. Test scores have shown the prisoner, Bobby Woods, has an IQ at or below seventyâ€“â€“ the cutoff point for mental retardation. In a recent interview with journalist Renee Feltz, Woods described how he has difficulty reading words with more than four letters.
Mr. Woods describes his difficulties with the written word:
Bobby Woods: They had these Western books [in the prison library]. A lot of the words ainâ€™tâ€”you know, most of the words ainâ€™t past four. I mean, they gotâ€”you know, they have five and six letters, but most of them about four. I can read most of it, but then some I canâ€™t read. I had to read it like maybe two or three times, then I finally understand it.
Before feeling too sorry for Mr. Woods and coming to the conclusion that he is, in fact, â€œpossibly retarded,â€ and thus ineligible for execution, let’s consider the definition of mental retardation:
A diagnosis of mental retardation requires three conditions to be met:
1)Â Â Â Â Â A sub-70 IQ:
2)Â Â Â Â Â Poor functioning in society; and
3)Â Â Â Â Â Being that way before the age of 18 (as opposed to, e.g., later brain damage due to an accident, etc.).
So, is Mr. Woods retarded?
Letâ€™s have a look at his IQ scores:
a) 1st grade: 78
b) Age 7: 86
c) 4th grade: 80
d) At age 33: 83
e) While on Death Row: 68
Four IQ test scores placed Woods above the seventy-point cutoff, yet Woods’ lowest IQ score was attained when he had an incentive to perform poorly. Did Mr. Woods suddenly get substantially stupider on the latest IQ test, or did he have the most to lose by doing well on that final exam?
The numbers overall seem high enough to refute the retardation claim.
What about the second condition listed above? Could Woods function in society? Well, he did manage to hold down jobs. He had been married. In fact, his former brother-in-law, Duane Palmer, describes him as a â€œpretty normal guyâ€ who is now trying to play the system to avoid being executed:
He’s just as normal as you and I except he kills children and molests them. He’s grasping at any straw he can get as far as I’m concerned trying to stay alive.
Ah, letâ€™s not neglect to talk about his crime. Without getting too graphic, Woods kidnapped the two children of a former girlfriend, 11-year-old Sarah Patterson, and her brother, 9-year-old Cody. He drove them to a cemetery (he was, apparently, also perfectly capable of operating a motor vehicle) where he severely beat Cody and left him for dead (thankfully,Â the childÂ survived), and raped and murdered Sarah by cutting her throat so deeply that he severed her larynx, several major arteries and veins, causing her to bleed to death.
Is Democracy Now! correct in asserting that Texas is about to err in executing a severely retarded man? And if so, given the nature of the crime, does it matter?