Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry Grants Inmate's Request for Commuted Sentence

Death Row Inmate Found to Be Mentally Retarded

Friday, March 12, 2004  •  Press Release

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry has commuted the death sentence of Robert Smith of Harris County to life imprisonment after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously recommended such action.

Smith, also known as Robert Lee Johnson, was sentenced to death for the 1990 capital murder of James Michael Wilcox during an attempted robbery. Smith sought to have his death sentence overturned following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which banned execution of the mentally retarded. A Harris County District Court conducted an evidentiary hearing into Smith’s claims that he is mentally retarded. Based on testimony by experts for both the defense and the state, the court concluded in February that the inmate is mentally retarded and, therefore, barred from being executed.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal agreed with the finding and the recommendation for commutation to a life sentence.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-0 to recommend commutation, and the governor signed the commutation papers Thursday evening.

The governor’s action means Smith’s sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment as soon as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice can process the paperwork.

Smith is the first death-sentenced inmate that Perry has commuted to life imprisonment.

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