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Texas moves to ban execution of mentally retarded offenders

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- The Texas Legislature Saturday passed a bill banning the use of the death penalty on mentally retarded offenders.

"We have a killing machine here in Texas and we don't discriminate in terms of mental illness or people who are poor," said Rep. Juan Hinojosa, the sponsor of the bill. "I support the death penalty, but it is uncivilized to execute the mentally retarded who don't know right from wrong."

Texas has executed 246 prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. By comparison, Virginia, the state with the second highest rate of executions has put 82 prisoners to death since 1976.

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In that time, Texas has executed six mentally retarded inmates. The last one was Oliver Cruz who had an I.Q. of 64. He was executed August 9, 2000 for the 1988 rape and murder of a woman.

Currently 14 states forbid execution of the mentally retarded.

The Texas measure would impose a life sentence on mentally retarded defendants found guilty of capital crimes.

The measure now goes to Gov. Rick Perry, who, Hinojosa said, had not committed to signing the bill.

The governor has 10 days to either sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.


Greta@LAW







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