Robert Ladd, 57, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the Walls Unit in Huntsville today for the 1996 murder of Vickie Ann Gardner, despite assertions stating that he is mentally handicapped.
Ladd was sentenced to death based on his involvement in the murder of Gardner, backed by the discovery of his DNA on the victim’s body and his hand print at the crime scene.
Ladd’s criminal background includes one imprisonment in Dallas County for an unknown charge, according to TDCJ’s records, as well as a conviction and life sentence for the 1980 murders of his cousin and her two young children.
During the time of Gardner’s murder, Ladd had been released under mandatory supervision in Tyler. He was released October 1992.
On September 1996, Ladd raped and murdered Gardner after binding her wrists and legs. Gardner was found to have been bludgeoned with a hammer. Her body was then set on fire while her home was robbed.
After receiving a delay in execution on December 8, 2014, due to an order not being signed in time, according to the Daily Tribune, Ladd will be executed today.
According to the Daily Tribune, Gardner’s surviving kin were more than happy to hear of Ladd having his final appeal to the federal courts denied.
After facing the death of Gardner, the victim’s sisters, Teresa Wooten and Kathy Pirtle, have awaited retribution for their loss for more than 18 years.
Wooten was “ecstatic when she learned late last week Ladd’s appeal to the federal court was rejected,” according to the Daily Tribune.
While Ladd’s end encroaches, many organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, continue to fight for a stay of execution based on the Atkins v. Virginia statute of 2002, a ruling made by the Supreme Court that forbids the execution of those considered “mentally retarded.”
Additionally, according to the Federal Crime Bill of 1994, while mental retardation does not have a set definition in the eyes of the federal government, it is against federal law to execute someone who is mentally retarded.
A general consensus among a number of states has determined that mental retardation is defined as “substantial limitations in present functioning [. . .] characterized by significantly [below average] intellectual functioning [. . .] with related limitations in two or more of the following applicable adaptive skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure, and work. Mental retardation manifests before age 18.”
Though many states have embraced this statute, Texas does not have any laws addressing the limitations of executions based on mental deficiencies.
According to the ACLU, Ladd should receive a commuted sentence, based upon his IQ which has been measured at 67 points. Ladd later retested at 87 points during an investigation into his mental status.
Ladd has also gained some notoriety for submitting a letter to the Letters from Death Row series published by Gawker Media.
In a letter he claims to have had help writing, Ladd discusses the issues of a stay of execution that was issued in 2003 based on a childhood record of retardation.
“On April 23, 2003 I was given a stay of execution on the mental retardation issue when I was 13-years-old and in state custody,” Ladd said.
Ladd went on to provide evidence of his diminished mental capacity and accusing a federal judge of bias in his ruling against Ladd’s appeal.
“The federal Judge, R. Schell, was very bias (sic) and you can read that in his opinion it didn’t make any difference how much evidence I had he was going to rule against me and that is what [he] did,” Ladd said.
He goes on to mention his lawyer’s refusal to leave his case, despite not seeing Ladd in 10 years, and how the poverty his family suffers prevents him from hiring a replacement attorney before pleading with Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan to spread the word of his impending death.
Regardless on the ruling of Ladd’s mental status, it seems that four deaths at the hands of Ladd will lead him to the death chamber, if not interrupted before 6 p.m.