The Supreme Court declined to block the execution of Texas man Arthur Brown, who is scheduled to die on Thursday for his role in the 1992 shooting deaths of four people. Brown had asked the justices to put his execution on hold and direct a state court to consider his claim that he should not be executed because he is intellectually disabled. In a brief unsigned order, the justices on Thursday afternoon denied that request.
If any of the justices dissented from the denial of Brown’s plea for a stay of his execution, they did not note their disagreement publicly.
Brown was sentenced to death in November 1993 for his role in a robbery in Houston in which six people were shot; four of those people – Jessica Quinones, Jose Guadalupe Tovar, Audrey Brown, and Frank Farias – were killed. Brown’s initial challenges to his conviction and sentence were unsuccessful.
Nine years after Brown’s trial, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Relying on Atkins, Brown went back to state court, seeking to overturn his death sentence.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court for criminal cases, dismissed Brown’s request for relief on procedural grounds, without reaching his contention that he is intellectually disabled.
That prompted Brown to come to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. He told the justices that if the TCCA’s decision stands, he will be “executed without any court having considered the strong evidence that he is intellectually disabled.”
The state countered that, in deciding Brown’s case, the TCCA had effectively reviewed the merits of Brown’s claim. Brown had simply not shown, the state wrote, that he is intellectually disabled. Noting that the victims’ families “have waited 30 years for justice,” the state urged the court not to delay Brown’s execution “to review a claim that could have been raised years before.”
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.