Texas Sends Mentally Retarded Prisoners to Death Row Using Junk Science

By Renée Feltz, Texas Observer. Posted January 21, 2010.

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ban, Texas still sends mentally retarded people to the execution chamber. Now, one Mexican immigrant's case could change this.

Floresbinda Plata hadn't seen a doctor during her entire pregnancy in the desolate village of Angoa in Michoacan, Mexico. But after four hours of painful labor, she sought help at the nearest clinic, an hour away by dirt road. After Plata arrived, Dr. Luis Zapien recalls, "We pulled [the baby] out and he was born completely flaccid and purple."

Floresbinda heard the doctor say that her son was dead before he untwined the umbilical cord that was wrapped twice around the baby's neck and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After several minutes, though, her son began breathing. But the lack of oxygen had already damaged his brain. A nurse checked off a simple behavioral checklist -- did he cry, did he respond appropriately? -- and gave him two points out of 10, a score for a newborn with profound cognitive defects. Just an hour into his life, and 20 years before he would be sentenced to die in Texas, Daniel Plata was already being tested for mental retardation.

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