Double execution reignites death penalty controversy

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The Independent US

Two convicted murderers were scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas last night in a double execution likely to fuel the growing dispute about the death penalty in the US. One of the two, Oliver Cruz, aged 33, was said by a psychologist at his trial to have an IQ so low that he should be considered mentally retarded.

Two convicted murderers were scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas last night in a double execution likely to fuel the growing dispute about the death penalty in the US. One of the two, Oliver Cruz, aged 33, was said by a psychologist at his trial to have an IQ so low that he should be considered mentally retarded.

His defence argued that his mental impairment should be considered a mitigating factor against the imposition of the death penalty. But the prosecutor said the fact that Cruz "may not be very smart" made him all the more dangerous. Cruz was convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in San Antonio in 1988. The other man, Brian Roberson, 36, was convicted of murdering two people in a robbery in Dallas in 1986.

Even in Texas, where 225 people have been executed since 1982, multiple executions are rare: there have been two double executions since then. The Texas authorities said it was coincidence that two courts had set the same date.

The state's legislature narrowly rejected a ban on killing the mentally retarded in its last session, and could pass such a provision next year. Cruz's lawyer, Jeffrey Pokorak, said yesterday: "This is the terrible tragedy of this case. The law is going to prevent the execution of people like Cruz in six to eight months, so he would be the last retarded person to die under the old law."

A spokesman for the state governor, George W Bush, who has staunchly defended the death penalty, said Mr Bush was satisfied that "current Texas law already contains protections to make sure that a person who's mentally incompetent isn't executed".

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