The case involved a Mexican-born illegal immigrant named Ramiro Hernandez who was convicted in a Texas court in 2000 for the murder of his employer and the rape of his employer’s wife. After given the death penalty, he appealed on the grounds that he was mentally retarded. Hernandez’s lawyers argued that because IQ tests taken prior to trial showed his to be a mere 62, within the standard definition of mental retardation, his execution would be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.”
This so-called “Atkins claim” by the defense, named after the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, was rejected by the Fifth Circuit. They accepted the prosecution’s rather astonishing argument that although Hernandez’s IQ was low compared to “American norms,” when “scaled to Mexican norms” it should be adjusted upward. When assessed according to his “cultural group”, they argued, his results should be closer to 70, a level just outside the definition of mental retardation.
In case you’re not clear, let me write it more simply:
They gave this guy extra points on his IQ test because IQ tests are biased against racial and ethnic minorities and then, based on the extra points, they executed him.