Should Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Victims Be Excluded From Death Penalty?


Mark Anthony Soliz, on Texas’ death row, had a mother who drank heavily, sniffed paint, and used drugs while pregnant. The long-ago failings of his mother could hold the key to sparing his life, says the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. Soliz’s appeal of his conviction in the death of a grandmother has joined a growing list of cases nationwide seeking to exclude the death penalty for defendants with fetal alcohol syndrome, a form of brain damage caused by maternal alcohol abuse.

Experts say the death penalty should be off the table in such cases, just as the U.S. Supreme Court abolished it for defendants with mental retardation. Prosecutors and victims advocates say it’s a guise for going easy on killers who show no such mercy to their victims. “FAS should not be used as an excuse for intentionally and knowingly murdering another person,” said Andy Kahan, a victims-rights advocate in Houston. “Clearly, the defendant has been able to make law-abiding decisions on a daily basis, and they obviously know right from wrong. FAS is yet another hurdle for surviving family members of homicide to overcome to secure justice for the coldblooded murder of their loved ones.” The Soliz case is one of at least two in Texas seeking a permanent reprieve from the death penalty.

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