Marvin Wilson was executed in Texas due to a failure of the Supreme Court to enforce the Eighth Amendment and stay his execution. Although he only had an IQ of 61, he was deemed capable enough to be put to death under the unscientific opinion that since he was less impaired than Lennie Small in the John Steinbeck novel, Of Mice and Men, the death penalty would not violate the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Steinbeck’s son Thomas released the following statement:
“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.”
Steinbeck’s works reveal his communist leanings and sympathy for the poor and downtrodden. He faced much criticism for his indictment of capitalism and his portrayal of the hard life of migrant workers in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which at various points was banned from libraries, along with Of Mice and Men. The author was awarded The Nobel Prize for literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom during his remarkable lifetime.