Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bulletin: Coy Wesbrook: Texas; (A discredited psychologist George Denkowski case); Texas is about to execute a man who calls himself ‘Elvis’ and may be mentally disabled, Fusion reports.

"On Wednesday, Texas will execute a man who calls himself Elvis. Coy Wesbrook, 58, is scheduled to die by lethal injection for gunning down his ex-wife and four other people in 1997. But his lawyer and supporters say Wesbrook is mentally disabled and shouldn’t be executed. And the psychologist who determined that Wesbrook was fit to face capital punishment has had his methods discredited. “This is a real travesty,” said Don Vernay, Wesbrook’s lawyer. “Because he can read and write, they claim he is not mentally retarded, which is bullshit.” Wesbrook killed five people in Channelview, Texas, on November 13, 1997. He had divorced his wife, Gloria Coons, a few months earlier, and she invited him to a party that night, which he hoped meant they could get back together. At one point during the party, Wesbrook noticed that his wife had disappeared. He walked into her bedroom and found her having sex with two other men. He tried to go to his truck and leave, but one of the other men grabbed his keys and another threw a beer in his face. So Wesbrook got his hunting rifle out of the back of the truck and shot everyone there. Then he sat and waited for the police. In June 1998, a jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to die. According to Atkins v. Virginia, a Supreme Court case from 2002, executing people with intellectual disabilities is cruel and unusual punishment—but states are allowed to define intellectual disabilities for themselves. Texas’ longtime standard has been based on IQ, with anyone with an IQ of under 70 being seen as disabled. Wesbrook appealed his conviction, with his lawyers arguing that he was incapable. Prosecutors hired a psychologist named George Denkowski to test Wesbrook’s capacity. In 2006, Denkowski submitted a report finding that Wesbrook had an IQ of only 66. But a few months later, he filed an updated report saying that based on “non-intellectual factors,” Wesbrook’s “actual adult general intelligence functioning is estimated to be of about 84 IQ quality.” Denkowski, who examined 16 death penalty defendants and found them all mentally capable for execution, was later reprimanded by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists for ignoring standard testing practices. In a 2011 settlement with the board, he paid a fine and agreed to never testify in a criminal case again. “There’s absolutely no scientific basis to his procedure,” Marc Tassé, an Ohio State professor, told The New York Times. After Denkowski’s ouster, the trial court that handled Wesbrook’s case again denied his claim of mental incapacity in 2014 and didn’t allow for a new psychiatric evaluation. “It’s like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube,” Vernay said of Denkowski’s determination. (Denkowski declined to comment on Monday.) Wesbrook’s last chance before Wednesday is a clemency petition in front of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, but the board almost never grants clemency to death row inmates."