Tuesday, August 13, 2002


White supremacist granted reprieve in Texas; state courts will consider retardation claim
Fri Aug 9, 3:52 PM ET
By JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas - A white supremacist convicted of murdering a man he met in a bar was granted a reprieve Friday, four days before his scheduled execution, so hearings could be held to determine whether he is mentally retarded.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest court in criminal cases, ordered Brian Edward Davis' case returned to Harris County for the hearings. Davis was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday.

Davis, 33, a parolee with a history of violence that began in grade school, was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing Michael Foster of Houston in 1991. He inscribed the victim's body with a swastika and initials of a skinhead group.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing mentally retarded inmates is unconstitutional.

Davis did not offer a mental retardation defense during his trial, but Davis' attorney, Greg Wiercioch, said he does not believe that will hurt his appeal's prospects.

"Mental retardation is not something you can waive. You can't execute mentally retarded people," he said.

As defined by the American Association of Mental Retardation, mental retardation has three factors: below average intellectual functioning, usually an IQ of 70 or below; "poor adaptive skills," such as inability to hold a job or communicate with others; and the onset of symptoms before age 18.

Wiercioch said Davis was tested with an IQ of 74 as a teenager and can prove a pattern of poor adaptive skills. He said the IQ test's five-point margin of error could put Davis below the threshold.

Davis becomes the second Texas death row inmate to receive a stay of execution from the state's courts so that claims of retardation could be considered in light of the Supreme Court decision. In a third case, a federal judge ordered that a Texas inmate's death sentence be reconsidered.

In a recent death-row interview with The Associated Press, Davis said he turned to white supremacist groups while in prison to protect himself from beatings by black inmates.

Texas has executed more inmates since the 1970s than any other state: 276, including 20 this year and two just this week.