The Catholic bishops of Texas sent a letter to Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles, appealing for a stay of execution for Marvin Wilson scheduled for August 7 at 6 PM local time.
The Catholic Church has evolved in its position as to capital punishment. For instance, it was until the late 1700s that executions were carried out by Vatican authorities for crimes such as murder. Usually, the guillotine was the preferred method. However, it has been especially since the pontificate of John Paul II that Catholic opposition to the death penalty has increased. According to a statement from the Texas bishops, the Church has "long opposed the death penalty out of respect for all human life and sees capital punishment as perpetuating a cycle of violence and vengeance."
The Catholic bishops, along with other opponents to the death penalty, have pointed out Wilson’s mental retardation. According to the bishops, a 2004 psychological exam measured Wilson's IQ at just 61--well below Texas' benchmark for mental retardation of an IQ of 70 or below. Furthermore, the bishops' statement said that the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional when used to execute persons with mental retardation and “their disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment, and control of their impulses."
Wilson's attorneys have petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for a stay of execution, arguing that death by lethal injection would run counter to the high court's 2002 ruling on the mentally retarded. The attorneys are asking that the execution be delayed until the methods used by Texas to measure mental retardation are challenged and analysed.
While calling for clemency, the Catholic bishops also gave assurances that they are praying for Jerry Williams, whom Wilson is convicted of killing. "We stand in solidarity with victims and their loved ones, however, when it comes to matters of life and death, morality and common sense call for justice, mercy, and for careful safeguards," the letter stated. “Showing mercy does not mean neglecting to administer justice or punish people for their crimes. Showing mercy does mean exhibiting compassion toward all of our brothers and sisters, and providing them with an opportunity for atonement and rehabilitation,” wrote the bishops.