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Another Supposedly Retarded Murderer

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SL&P has this post, linking to this post at Stand Down Texas, regarding Bobby Wayne Woods, who has an appointment with the Grim Reaper tomorrow. Reading these posts, you might think that Woods has a substantial argument that he is mentally retarded and hence ineligible for execution. Jumping to that conclusion without reading the opinions in the case would, of course, be foolish. Here are two of the opinions: the Fifth Circuit's 2007 opinion on the retardation issue and its 2002 opinion disposing of the pre-Atkins issues. I've put the facts of the crime after the jump.

A diagnosis of mental retardation requires three elements. Somewhat simplified, they are sub-70 IQ, poor functioning in society, and being that way before 18 (as opposed to, e.g., later brain damage). Let's look at the IQ first. Here are Woods' IQ test results:

1st grade: 78 (WISC)
4th grade: 80 (WISC)
1972 (age 7): 86 (Cal. Short Form)
1998 (age 33): 83 (short form upon entry to Tex. prison system)
recently: 68 (WAIS-III, during Atkins litigation)

Which of these tests is the least reliable? The last one, obviously. It is an outlier from the others and it was given at a time when Woods had the strongest possible incentive to do poorly on a test where effort is essential to validity. From the Fifth Circuit's summary of the state court opinion:

Based on this evidence, the state habeas court concluded that Woods failed to prove each required element by a preponderance of the evidence. Regarding Woods' general intellectual functioning, the court noted, in part, the existence of four IQ test scores placing Woods above the seventy-point cutoff. It also found compelling the fact that Dr. Schmitt, the defense's expert, was the only person to test Woods' IQ below seventy and the only expert who has tested Woods and concluded that he is mentally retarded. The court further noted that Woods' lowest IQ score was attained when he had an incentive to perform poorly, but Woods' IQ scores were higher when he had no such incentive.
Bingo. That is sufficient to dispose of the retardation claim. But there is more. See the opinion for details.

Oh, and what did the sainted Mr. Woods do, BTW?

In the early morning hours of April 30, 1997, Woods went to the house of his former girlfriend, Schwana Patterson, in Granbury, Texas. Though they had previously lived together, the two had split up. Woods later admitted to having used drugs before going to the house, including "crank" and PCP. Schwana was not at home when Woods arrived, but he found an open window into the bedroom where Schwana's two children, Sarah, 11, and Cody, nine, were sleeping. He grabbed Sarah by the foot; Cody awoke to Sarah's screams as Woods beat her chest.

He forced the two children to leave through the window in their nightclothes. Later investigation found Woods's semen on Sarah's bedcover, indicating that he had had sexual contact with her. This was borne out in other evidence, including statements by Woods himself, Sarah's friends, notes she had left in her diary indicating that she hated Woods and wanted him gone, and that she had contracted the sexually-transmitted disease Human Papilloma Virus ("HPV"). Woods was also infected with HPV. When Sarah's body was later found, forensic evidence including larvae development in her traumatized genitals also indicated that she had been sexually molested.

Woods took the children in his car to a cemetery. Enroute, Cody, in the back seat, noticed a black-handled knife in the back of the car. At the cemetery, Woods took Cody out of the car and asked him if his mother was seeing anyone else. He hit Cody and commenced strangling him in front of the car. Cody later testified that he thought he was going to die. He awoke later, crawled over a fence, and attracted the attention of a horseback rider who called the police.

The police later found Woods and told him that they had the "whole story" from Cody. They asked him to tell them where to find Sarah, hoping that she was still alive. Woods told them, "You will not find her alive. I cut her throat." He then led the police to Sarah's body and gave them two written statements. In the statements, he admitted to having had sexual contact with Sarah before leaving the house, that he had taken drugs, and that after Cody fell unconscious in the cemetery, Sarah had started screaming. He left with her in the car toward a bridge on highway 144. She continued to yell that she would tell the police that he had hit Cody. He attempted to quiet her by holding a knife to her throat. According to his statement, Sarah jerked and the knife cut her throat.

Her body was clothed in an inside-out shirt, a sports bra, and a pair of shorts, without panties. Her throat had been deeply cut, severing her larynx and several major arteries and veins, causing massive external bleeding that was the cause of her death.

In addition to finding Woods's semen on Sarah's blanket, investigators found a large butcher knife, stained with Sarah's blood, inside a trash bag that Woods had borrowed from a neighbor the morning after he abducted Sarah and Cody. The bag also contained a pawn ticket bearing Woods's signature and address for items he admitted stealing from the Patterson home. Sarah's blood was on Woods's jersey, which was in the back of his car; her panties were on the car's floorboard. There was evidence that Woods had scratches on his face and arms on the day after the murder that were not there the day before.
Woods v. Cockrell, 307 F.3d 353, 354-355 (CA5 2002). Before quoting this section of its prior opinion, the 2007 opinion notes:

We recognize that a recitation of the oft-grisly facts involved in a death penalty case can, at times, be "irrelevant and unnecessary." See Uttecht v. Brown, 127 S. Ct. 2218, 2239 (2007) (Stevens, J., dissenting). However, when the salient issue is whether the Petitioner is mentally retarded, the circumstances of his crime and his testimony at trial can be instructive in evaluating the merits of his Atkins claim.
Bingo again.

The Stand Down post links to a Texas Observer post with a video that some claim shows Woods is retarded. Anyone qualified to do so care to remark on the propriety of making a diagnosis from nothing but this video? See Steve Erickson' s post for more on this.

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As Kent notes, there have been a series of posts over the internet about the impending execution of Bobby Woods.  Many have claimed that Woods is mentally retarded and his execution would therefore violate Atkins v. Virginia.  But what eviden... Read More


Here's hoping that the courts will reject this nonsense and permit the execution to go forward. This is truly a heinous criminal, and he's had 12 years.

Here is the NY Times coverage:


It's notable that the 83 score doesn't make its way into the coverage.

Insanarın that need to be very neutral ground in the legal and more importantly, should not be under pressure from any person or institution

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