Target: Clemency Section, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Goal: Stay the execution of a man whose death would be unconstitutional and whose conviction was based on unsound expert testimony
The United States Constitution prohibits the execution of mentally-impaired individuals. Ramiro Hernandez Llanas has been consistently evaluated as having a mental disability. So why has he been sentenced to death? Sign the petition and urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to do the right thing–the only legal thing–and grant clemency to Ramiro Hernandez.
Ramiro Hernandez was sentenced to death in 2000 for murdering his employer in 1997. In the years since his crime, Ramiro has been repeatedly evaluated by mental health professionals. He has an IQ score between 50 and 60; mental impairment is generally acknowledged to manifest in IQs lower than 70. He was never professionally assessed as a child due to his family’s extreme poverty and hardships–they lived in a cardboard shack and scavenged through trash–but numerous interviews with people who knew him as a child indicate that he has been impaired intellectually and socially for his entire life.
Despite all this, an expert witness for the prosecution helped seal Hernandez’s fate when he stated that “Mr. Hernandez’s cultural group tends to have low socioeconomic status, low achievement, decreased social skills, increased substance abuse, and increased levels of criminal behavior. Mr Hernandez’s adaptive behavior is in keeping with his cultural group.” The expert, a psychiatrist, never evaluated or even met Hernandez. His arguments are based on racist, discriminatory stereotypes that have no scientific backing. He also suggested the possibility that Hernandez was faking his impairment, an idea that was both dismissed by the defense’s experts and contradicted by reports of Hernandez’s behavior as a child.
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the execution of mentally impaired persons was unconstitutional, but it left it up to the states to introduce regulations in light of this fact. Texas has yet to institute anything other than temporary guidelines regarding the execution of mentally impaired inmates. In the past 37 years, Texas accounts for about 37% of all the executions in the United States. For this year alone, it makes up 25%.
This should be an open-and-shut case. Execution of the mentally impaired is unconstitutional. The execution cannot and must not go forward.
Dear Board Members,
I am writing to urge you to stay the execution of Ramiro Hernandez Llanas (inmate 999342). His execution would be unconstitutional and his trial allowed an “expert” witness to make baseless and discriminatory claims against him.
Atkins v. Virginia (2002) ruled that the execution of mentally impaired individuals is unconstitutional. Mental impairment is generally agreed to be manifested by an IQ score of less than 70; Ramiro Hernandez has consistently tested in the 50s and 60s. Although he was never professionally evaluated as a child owing to his family’s extreme poverty and limited resources, testimonies from those who knew him growing up affirmed that he has indeed been mentally impaired all his life.
At Ramiro Hernandez’s trial, the defense presented two separate experts, both of whom evaluated Hernandez and asserted their firm belief that he was mentally impaired. The prosecution, on the other hand, presented an expert witness who neither evaluated nor even met with Hernandez, and who made racist and discriminatory statements about Hernandez’s mental faculties: “Mr. Hernandez’s cultural group tends to have low socioeconomic status, low achievement, decreased social skills, increased substance abuse, and increased levels of criminal behavior. Mr Hernandez’s adaptive behavior is in keeping with his cultural group.” The fact that such racist, baseless, and frankly idiotic statements were allowed in a court of law is a serious black eye to the Texas judicial system.
Ramiro Hernandez undoubtedly committed a horrific act of violence, and nothing makes that acceptable or even excusable. But the law is clear: mentally impaired individuals cannot be executed in the United States. There is only one possible action: halt Ramiro Hernandez’s execution.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Lee Honeycutt via Wikimedia Commons