Blume 2010 AAIDD Atkins MR/ID Death Penalty Symposium presentation


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This is John H. Blume's presentation made as part of an Atkins MR/ID Death Penalty Symposium at the 2010 AAIDD conference in Providence RI. A brief summary can be found at the following link.

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Blume 2010 AAIDD Atkins MR/ID Death Penalty Symposium presentation

  1. 1. An Empirical Look at Atkins v. Virginia and its Application in Capital Cases<br />John H. Blume<br />AAIDD Annual Meeting <br />Providence, RI<br />June <br />
  2. 2. Empirical Survey of Post-Atkins Cases<br />Floodgates and Frivolous Litigation?<br />Prong by Prong: More Evidence of State Deviations from the Clinical Definitions<br />Race Effects<br />Current Research<br />
  3. 3. I. Floodgates and Frivolous Litigation?<br />
  4. 4. Justice Scalia in Atkins<br /> “This newest invention promises to be more effective than any of the others in turning the process of capital trial into a game. One need only read the definitions of mental retardation to realize that the symptoms of this condition can readily be feigned.<br /> And whereas the capital defendant who feigns insanity risks commitment to a mental institution until he can be cured (and then tried and executed), the capital defendant who feigns mental retardation risks nothing at all.”<br />Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 353 (2002) (Scalia, J., dissenting). <br />
  5. 5. “Time will tell . . . .”<br />Prisoners on death row nationwide:<br />approximately 3,300<br />Capital defendants or death row prisoners filing Atkins claims: <br />approximately 7%<br />
  6. 6. Atkins Claims vs. Death Row Population<br />
  7. 7. High Success Rates<br />Winning Atkins claims:<br />approximately 40% of filed Atkins claims have won<br />Proportion of death row population found to have MR:<br />approximately 3%<br />actual number may be higher <br />
  8. 8. WIDE STATE VARIATION<br />There is wide state variation among states:<br />North Carolina: 17 of 21 cases have been successful<br />Alabama: 4 of 28 cases have been successful<br />Based on our research, the success rate appears to be linked to<br />The availability of funding<br />The state definition of MR<br />
  9. 9. II. Prong by Prong: The Impact of Divergent Applications of the Clinical Definitions<br />
  10. 10. Do States “Generally Conform”?<br /><ul><li>State deviations from clinical definitions of MR:
  11. 11. Prong 1 – Intellectual functioning
  12. 12. Strict IQ cutoff (“70 or below”)
  13. 13. Failure to account for standard error of measurement or practice effects
  14. 14. Disregarding the Flynn effect
  15. 15. Prong 2 – Adaptive functioning
  16. 16. Focusing on adaptive strengths rather than weaknesses
  17. 17. Giving too much weight to prison behavior and crime “sophisticaton”
  18. 18. Stereotyping
  19. 19. Prong 3 – Onset
  20. 20. Demanding standardized test result as proof of onset</li></li></ul><li>Losses by Prong<br />
  21. 21. Percent Losses by Prong<br />
  22. 22. Prong 1: Winning and Losing IQ<br />Are claimants winning with IQ scores over 70?<br />Approximately 15% had an average IQ above 70<br /><ul><li>Fortunate not to be in “cutoff” state</li></ul>Approximately 60% did not have any IQ scores over 70<br /><ul><li>Would qualify in every jurisdiction</li></ul>Are claimants losing with IQ scores below 70?<br />In 18% of losing cases (all Prong 1 only), claimant’s average IQ score was below 70, but included a score over 70<br />
  23. 23. Prong 2: Skill Areas<br />
  24. 24. Prong 2: Behavior in Prison<br />
  25. 25. WHY CASES LOSE<br /><ul><li>Reasons court have offered for finding that the defendant did not have deficits in adaptive functioning.
  26. 26. D could “read, write and perform some rudimentary math”
  27. 27. D has “adapted to the criminal life”
  28. 28. The crime was “too sophisticated” for a mentally retarded person
  29. 29. D attempted to “cover up” the crime
  30. 30. D lied to the police
  31. 31. D gave a detailed confession
  32. 32. D married 3 times
  33. 33. D maintained construction jobs
  34. 34. D had a driver’s license
  35. 35. D was never in special education classes
  36. 36. D could operate a microwave
  37. 37. D read children’s books and the Bible
  38. 38. D took notes during trial
  39. 39. D’s trial testimony was coherent
  40. 40. D communicated with counsel</li></li></ul><li>MATAMOROS v. THALER<br /><ul><li>The Court found that Matamoros had significantly subaverage intellectual functioning.
  41. 41. But, no deficits in adaptive functioning because:
  42. 42. “Matamoros’ juvenile offenses, lying to his mother about where he got stolen cares, manipulative behavior at TYC, commission of the capital murder and behavior after the offense, and his attempt to blame someone else for the capital murder demonstrated rational and appropriate conduct.”</li></li></ul><li>LIZCANO v. STATE (TEXAS)<br />Defendant prevailed on prong 1.<br />He lost on prong 2 despite overwhelming evidence of deficits in adaptive functioning because:<br />He was a “hard and reliable worker”<br />He had romantic relationships with two women<br />He sent significant amounts of money to his family in Mexico.<br />
  43. 43. III. Race Effects<br />
  44. 44. Percent of Atkins Claims by Race<br />
  45. 45. AVERAGE IQ SCORES OF ATKINS’ CLAIMANTS<br />African American Inmates – 71<br />Caucasian Inmates – 73<br />Hispanic Inmates - 69<br />
  46. 46. IV. CURRENT RESEARCH<br />Jury v. Judge –<br />There have been 24 jury determinations of whether a capital defendant is a person with mental retardation (that we are aware of) since Atkins was decided.<br />In 1 case the jury found for the defendant.<br />Juror Interviews<br />Factual Innocence<br />