A convicted murderer has been executed by lethal injection in Texas after the US Supreme Court rejected claims he was too mentally impaired to qualify for the death penalty.
Marvin Wilson’s lawyers argued that his IQ of 61 – below the generally accepted minimum competency standard of 70 - should have made him ineligible for capital punishment.
The Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution less than two hours before his lethal injection began.
The 54-year-old smiled and nodded to his three sisters and son, told them he loved them and asked them to give his mother "a big hug".
He said: "Y'all do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint," he said. "Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, take me home Lord."
Wilson was convicted of murdering 21-year-old Jerry Williams in November 1992, several days after he had been arrested for cocaine possession. He accused Williams of snitching on him about the drugs.
In his Supreme Court appeal, Wilson's lead lawyer Lee Kovarsky said his language and maths skills "never progressed beyond an elementary school level" and that he was unable to manage his finances, pay bills or hold down a job.
But lower courts had dismissed his IQ, arguing that it was based on a single possibly faulty test and that his mental impairment claim was not supported by other tests and assessments over the years.
Kovarsky said he was "gravely disappointed and saddened". He added: "It is outrageous that the state of Texas continues to utilise unscientific guidelines to determine which citizens with intellectual disability are exempt from execution."
In 2002, the Supreme Court outlawed the execution of the mentally impaired but left it to states to determine what constitutes mental impairment.
The state's appeals court wrote: "Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt.
"But, does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?"
Steinbeck's son Thomas said in a statement: "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, ie Lennie Small ... as a benchmark to identify whether defendants with intellectual disability should live or die.
"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."
Kovarsky said the decision to execute was a "a reminder that, as a society, we haven't come quite that far in understanding how so many of those around us live with intellectual disabilities".
But Edward Marshall, a Texas assistant attorney general, described Wilson as manipulative and deceitful.
He said: "Considering Wilson's drug-dealing, street-gambler, criminal lifestyle since an early age, he was obviously competent at managing money, and not having a 9-to-5 job is no critical failure."