Unequal Justice

The Case for
Johnny Lee Wilson


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Table of Contents

Unequal Justice

The Case for
Johnny Lee Wilson


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Finally, the interrogating officers got him to confess to the crime.

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Why People with Mental Retardation Particularly Vulnerable when Questioned or charged with Crimes.

Relying on Authority figures for Solutions to Everyday Problems.

Watching for Clues from Interrogator

Bluffing Greater Competence Than One Possesses

An All Too Pleasant Facade

Abhorrence for the Term Mental Retardation

Real Memory Gaps

A Quickness To Take Blame

Impaired Judgement

An Inability to Understand Court Proceedings, to Assist in One’s own Defense, and to Understand the Punishment

Short Attention Span

Uncontrolled Impulses

An Unsteady Gait and Struggling Speech

Exhaustion and the Surrender of All Defenses

"When this crime occurred in 1986, I am confident that there was a lot of fear in that community. An elderly woman who was well respected, well liked, was murdered in her home. And that makes everyone feel vulnerable. That makes everyone afraid.

"There was a lot of pressure on the police to solve that crime as soon as possible to alleviate fear in that community."

- Dave Everson,
Attorney for Johnny Lee Wilson

How can mental Retardation or Other Developmental Disabilities Effect an Individual’s Interactions with Police and Prosecutors?

1. May not communicate at age level.

2. May not behave at age level.

3. May not understand the consequences of situations.

4. May not behave as expected in criminal justice situations.

"I would also hope that there is someone out there who is advocating for people with developmental disabilities who is waiving the red flag and letting these lawyers know that there’s some things they should learn and some places where they can learn them. This isn’t the sort of thing that we’re taught in law school."

-Michael Atchison, Attorney for Wilson

What can be Done?

1. Intervention at early stages

2. Education for people with disabilities, family members, and service providers.

3. Support for people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities who are currently incarcerated.

4. Community discussion and advocacy.

Author: Dr. John S. Trach

Home Page: http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/courses/sped322/