Latest update from busy Houston:
I spent Monday and Tuesday at a CLE (continuing legal education) event in Dallas. It was a conference specifically for capital defence attorneys at the Centre for American and International Law. The conference focused on ‘intellectual disabilities’, otherwise known as ‘mental retardation’. Speakers included forensic psychologists, a vocational consultant, a professor in speech-language pathology and capital defence attorneys.
In the 2002 case of Atkins v.
The conference was particularly informative on the use of IQ testing for determining mental retardation. The psychologists explained how the ‘Flynn Effect’, a phenomenon with IQ testing, documents substantial increases in IQ over time. The average IQ of the population is 100. An IQ test normed in 1977 and used today would have a population mean of 111. This means if a client scored 75 in 1977, that score today would equate to 64.
Defendants with consistent childhood IQ scores at or below 65 are not likely targets for death prosecution. The problem area is scores of 65-75 or ‘mildly mentally retarded’. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeal recognises that a person with a 75 IQ may be mentally retarded: ex parte Hearn, 310 S.W.3d 424 (
In stark contrast, Wednesday also involved visiting with a client who was remarkably intelligent. We visited a neighbouring county for a team meeting concerning this particular client. He had a bad experience with previous trial counsel and as a result became very well educated on the law. It was a unique experience and probably one of the highlights of my trip. He was quoting Sun Tzu's The Art of War and talking about his time in the jail, keeping the team entertained throughout the visit.
We were in the county to obtain discovery from the DA’s office for his case. Unfortunately, they were not prepared for our scheduled visit, had little of the necessary evidence they needed to convict our client, and, as a result, could not provide us with the materials we needed.
Blog by Aine Kervick, intern at the Amicus Houston office
29 June 2012