So Texas is using a fictional character dreamed up by John Steinbeck in 1937 as the standard for mental exemptions from the death penalty. What? The Guardian provides a more detailed account of the travesty.
Although the execution of intellectually disabled prisoners was banned by the US supreme court in 2002, Texas used the discretion allowed to individual states to come up with its own criteria of learning difficulties. These use the character of Lennie, the gentle simpleton who doesn’t know his own strength from Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men, as a benchmark, with the court writing: “Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck’s Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt”.
Thomas Steinbeck — John’s son — decried the application of this fictional standard to a matter that requires something more than artistic imagining. I feel that Steinbeck’s response may not have gone far enough. This is actually bat-shit insane.