Steinbeck’s Son on his Father’s Legacy and the Marvin Wilson Case

Last week, I blogged about Mr. Marvin Wilson’s capital sentence, scheduled for today, and the Texas Court of Appeals’ egregious replacement of science with literature to determine Mr. Wilson’s mental capacity.  John Steinbeck’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, has released the following statement about the Marvin Wilson case and the Briseño decision, which cites his father’s work:

 “On behalf of the family of John Steinbeck, I am deeply troubled by today’s scheduled execution of Marvin Wilson, a Texas man with an I.Q. of 61. Prior to reading about Mr. Wilson’s case, I had no idea that the great state of Texas would use a fictional character that my father created to make a point about human loyalty and dedication, i.e, Lennie Small from Of Mice and Men, as a benchmark to identify whether defendants with intellectual disability should live or die. My father was a highly gifted writer who won the Nobel prize for his ability to create art about the depth of the human experience and condition. His work was certainly not meant to be scientific, and the character of Lennie was never intended to be used to diagnose a medical condition like intellectual disability. I find the whole premise to be insulting, outrageous, ridiculous, and profoundly tragic. I am certain that if my father, John Steinbeck, were here, he would be deeply angry and ashamed to see his work used in this way.”

 Mr. Wilson’s scheduled execution has been condemned by numerous prominent groups and organizations, including the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Texas Senator Rodney Ellis, Texas Representative Lon Burnam, and others. The New York Times, and the Dallas Morning News have editorialized that the execution must be stopped.

Now, the Supreme Court needs to step in and stop the execution.

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6 Responses

  1. Sue Redmond says:

    I know nothing about American Law. But my expertise is of a mother with a daughter who is 20 years old but developmentally 4. I have friends who have sons and daughters with lesser needs than my daughter but who are equally as vulnerable.

    Often our sons and daughters learn to ‘function’ in different settings or situations giving the illusion that they are coping, often it becomes their methods of survival in a world that can be cruel and unforgiving. There is a plethora of studies, reports and findings by very important people which document this. I witness this on a daily basis.

    This case and others like it make my blood run cold, in the UK we have units attached to prisons full of young people with learning disabilities whom our system has failed because they didn’t fit in, or couldn’t cope in life and got caught up in some type of crime. They are not killed in the name of the law. If someone cannot read or write it is a cue that something is wrong. People who are imprisoned for a crime, who are suspected of having a learning disability should be automatically screened for this by independent professionals in all areas of health and education, this would ensure that justice is done properly and safely.

    To use Mr Steinbeck’s writing as a benchmark to identify whether anyone with a learning disability should live or die is not only insulting to this great mans writings, observations and wisdom which America is rightly so proud of. But it does demonstrate that still some people have learnt nothing from the past, which is a sign of doom for the American justice system.

    I dont know about law but I know about vulnerability, humanity, dignity, care and respect, all things that every society need and should expect to function. This type of punishment I am quite sure will not bring peace to the hearts of people hurt in this, victims families nor culprits families, it will not bring anyone back, turn back the clock or heal anything, it will simply continue the cycle of pain and hurt.

    All done in the name of the law.

  2. Joe says:

    TUESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2012


    12-5349 WILSON, MARVIN L. V. THALER, DIR., TX DCJ (12A128)

    The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Scalia and by him referred to the Court is denied. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

    He was later executed.

  3. Sue says:

    This is appaling, This is not justice.

  4. Michael says:

    Further proof, if any were needed, that the Texan government, and the people who elect them, are a pack of barbaric rednecks. Shame on you all.

  5. Sue says:

    There must be a way of stopping this. They cannot be allowed to continue to do this.

  6. Joe says:

    If they are merely “a pack of barbaric rednecks,” why did the federal court of appeals, not elected, accept it and the USSC let it stand w/o comment? Perhaps, it is wrong but a bit more complicated than all that? Even the report that held he was retarded said he was “mildly” retarded, underlining it was not as easy of a case as others.