Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adapitve behavior "best practices" in Atkins MR/ID cases: Tasse (2009)

The ongoing critical issue poll on the ICDP  blog sidebar has made it clear that readers want more information regarding the nature and measurement of the construct of adaptive behavior.  Although the assessment and definition of adaptive behavior has progressed over the past decades, it is not enjoyed the lengthy history of research that has resulted in current intelligence testing technology. That being said, I'm going to attempt to make more posts related to adaptive behavior in the context of Atkins cases. These posts will be based primarily on my reading of professional journal articles or book chapters written by authorities in the field.   As always, I'm extend an open invitation to individuals with expertise in adaptive behavior to submit guest blog posts in this area.

I selected this article because I agree with most of what  Dr. Tassé suggests and recommends.

  • Tassé, M. J.  Adaptive Behavior Assessment and the Diagnosis of Mental Retardation in Capital Cases.  Online Publication Date: 01 April 2009 . To cite this Article Tassé, Marc J.(2009)'Adaptive Behavior Assessment and the Diagnosis of Mental Retardation in Capital Cases',Applied Neuropsychology,16:2,114 — 123 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09084280902864451 URL:
Highlights from article

(unless otherwise specified via italics or underlying, the following text are direct extractions from the article. Any comments by the blog master are designated by italics or underlining.)

  • According to the author, the primary adaptive behavior issues in Atkins cases are: Issues related to standardized assessment instruments, self-report, selection of respondents, use of collateral information, malingering, and clinical judgment are discussed.
  • Adaptive behavior is defined as the collection of conceptual, social, and practical skills that have been learned by people to function in their everyday lives
  • Standard definitions of mental retardation indicates that there must be:  deficits in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, and these deficits must have originated during the developmental period. It should be noted that ‘‘originated during the developmental period’’ does not preclude making a first time diagnosis of mental retardation when an individual is an adult. The clinician must, however, adequately document that the deficits in intellectual and adaptive functioning were present before the end of the developmental period.
  • A major distinction between adaptive behavior and intellectual assessment is typical versus maximal performance. This is a long-standing classic distinction first articulated by Cronbach.  This view is consistent with AAIDD’s long standing position that adaptive behavior assessment must focus on the individual’s typical performance and not maximal ability (see Luckasson et al., 2002).  Thompson, McGrew, Bruininks (2002) discuss this distinction in the context of MR/ID, personal competence, and adaptive behavior. The figure below, which highlights the typical versus maximal performance distinction (within the context of Greenspan's model of personal competence), was extracted from that Thompson et al. article and can be viewed by clicking here.
[Double click on the image to enlarge and make more readable]

  • Luckasson et al. also emphasized the importance of using standardized adaptive measures that had been normed on the general population and assessed the broad array of adaptive behavior, including conceptual, practical, and social skills.  Note--the inappropriate use of adaptive behavior measures that have not been normed on the general population (e.g., SSSQ), when used in the context of Atkins cases, was the topic of  two prior posts.
  • The use of a standardized adaptive behavior scale is often insufficient to capture all aspects of an individual’s adaptive behavior. Elements of adaptive behavior that are related to adult social adaptive skills or higher order interpersonal skills are lacking from most existing adaptive behavior scales
  • Greenspan (Greenspan, 1981; Greenspan, 2006; Greenspan, 2008; Greenspan, Loughlin, & Black, 2001; Greenspan & Switzky, 2006) has devoted much of his career to studying and publishing on concepts that are often present in individuals with mild mental retardation, but under-represented in standardized adaptive behavior scales: social competence, gullibility, naivety, and lack of wariness
  • Anyone conducting an adaptive behavior assessment is strongly encouraged to consult the chapter by Harrison and Raineri (2008) on the Best Practices in the Assessment of Adaptive Behavior. [Harrison, P. L., & Raineri, G. (2008). Best practices in the assessment of adaptive behavior. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology (5th ed.) (pp. 605–616). Bethesda, MD: NASP Press.]
  • Two of the more challenging aspects of any adaptive behavior assessment of an individual who is incarcerated include: the assessment of the individual’s present functioning and the assessment of the individual’s typical behavior in meeting community demands and expectations.
  • Thus, assessment of adaptive behavior for the purpose of making a diagnosis of mental retardation involves assessing the individual’s present, typical behavior. as well as the individual’s functioning as it occurs in the community. It is not a measure of capacity or knowledge, but in fact is a measure of what the individual typically does and what is the degree of independence in performing these skills
  • Stevens and Price (2006) recommended that future research in the area of adaptive behavior assessment should develop norms on prison populations. This author strongly disagrees with this notion. Norming an adaptive behavior scale on people living in prisons would have as much value as norming a new IQ test on people living in prisons.  Note--the blog master strongly agrees with this position.
The authors discuss the important concept of using convergent information
  • There exists no one standardized adaptive behavior scale that captures the entire spectrum of adaptive behavior across all age groups (Luckasson et al., 2002; Thompson, McGrew, & Bruininks, 1999). This does not, however, negate the importance of using such measures when possible. Rather, any comprehensive evaluation of adaptive behavior should seek to corroborate information obtained on standardized measures from sources such as: school records, employment history, social security administration records, medical records, and interviews with respondents who know the individual well but who might not be able to provide comprehensive information sufficient to complete all domains on an adaptive behavior scale. In addition to the use of standardized measures of adaptive behavior, it is crucial to obtaining corroborating information from other sources. For example, the individual’s school records can provide a wealth of information regarding conceptual, practical, and social skills. It will be necessary to also consult social security administration records, driving record, employment history, medical records, and social and family history. In addition to interviewing individuals to complete a standardized adaptive behavior scale, it is vital to conduct clinical interviews of relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, employers, roommates, etc. in order to obtain some qualitative information regarding the individual’s adaptive behavior. This information can be crucial in providing corroborating information regarding areas of limitations and strengths.
Administration of standardized behavior scales and completing semi-structured interviews
  • The ideal respondents are individuals who have the most knowledge of the individual’s everyday functioning across settings. Typically, the individual’s parents or caregivers are the persons with the most opportunity to observe the assessed individual in his=her everyday functioning. As the individual becomes an adult, this role may shift to a spouse or roommate. Other individuals who may provide valuable adaptive behavior information include: older siblings, grandparents, aunts=uncles, neighbors, teachers, coaches, employers, coworkers, friends, or other adults who may have had multiple opportunities over an extended period of time to observe the individual in his everyday functioning in one or more contexts (e.g., home, leisure, school, work, community).
  • Correctional officers and other prison personnel should probably never be sought as respondents to provide information regarding the adaptive behavior of an individual that they’ve observed in a prison setting.

The critical issue of retrospective assessment
  • A retrospective assessment of adaptive behavior is often considered as the only viable option when the assessed individual is incarcerated. Interviewing a respondent while asking them to recall a time prior to the individual’s incarceration is the proposed means of capturing the individual’s typical adaptive behavior in the community and establishing a retrospective diagnosis (Schalock et al., 2007). It should be noted that there is no research available examining the reliability or error rate of adaptive behavior assessments obtained retrospectively. At issue is the respondent’s ability to correctly recall from memory the assessed individual’s actual performance. Memory degradation is a real issue and we do not have any solid research regarding (Memon & Henderson, 2002) recollection of another person’s adaptive behavior.
  • To assist the clinician with this difficult task, Schalock et al. (2007) recommended specific guidelines to follow when making a retrospective diagnosis of mental retardation, including using multiple respondents and multiple contexts and assessing adaptive functioning within the general community and within the individual’s
The issue of clinical judgment
  • Professionals should always use clinical judgment throughout the process of making or ruling out a diagnosis of mental retardation. One uses their clinical judgment in selecting an appropriate adaptive behavior assessment instrument, identifying who to interview as a respondent, assessing the respondent’s reliability, identifying and reviewing available records, and analyzing and interpreting all the available information to form an opinion.
  • Schalock and Luckasson (2005) defined clinical judgment as being founded upon clinical expertise in a particular area and that clinical judgment is based upon a thorough analysis of extensive data. Equally important, these authors state that, ‘‘Clinical judgment should not be thought of as a justification for abbreviated evaluations, a vehicle for stereotypes or prejudices, a substitute for insufficiently explored questions, an excuse for incomplete or missing data, or a way to solve political problems’’ (p. 6). Hence, clinical judgment should not be used as a shield when one draws conclusions that are not supported by the assessment results, observations, and=or case records.
Authors concluding comments
  • Most individuals with mental retardation will have strengths and areas of ability (see Luckasson et al., 2002). These strengths may confound a layperson or a professional with limited clinical experience with individuals who have mild mental retardation.
  • Mental retardation is a clinical diagnosis that should be made or ruled out based on a rigorous and comprehensive professional evaluation of the individual’s intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. If there is a presence of significant deficits, there must be an ascertainment that these deficits were manifest prior to age 18. A person who has been appropriately diagnosed with mental retardation should be identified as having mental retardation regardless of the individual’s living arrangement, accommodations, or supports in place that could very well result in better functioning.
  • When we assess adaptive behavior for the purpose of making or ruling out a diagnosis of mental retardation, the use of standardized adaptive behavior scales is often central since they provide an objective metric with which to determine whether or not the individual’s limitations are significantly below the average of the general population. The information obtained from standardized adaptive behavior scales should be corroborated with information from other sources, such as interviews with other informants and a thorough review of records and previous evaluations.
  • Assessment of adaptive behavior needs to be conducted using a combination of standardized adaptive behavior scales, adaptive behavior interviews of multiple informants who have observed the individual in different contexts, and a review of all available records. The standardized instrument is not error-free. The results obtained on a standardized adaptive behavior scale must be interpreted in relation to the instrument’s reliability and resulting standard error of measurement.
  • Self-ratings on standardized adaptive behavior scales are fraught with potential problems and should be interpreted with caution.
  • Retrospective adaptive behavior assessments should be well-documented with respect to respondents interviewed, procedure used, assessed time-frame (e.g., when individual was 17 years old), normative group used to interpret results, and source of convergent information that corroborates or contradicts results obtained. As with any type of adaptive behavior assessment, multiple respondents should be used and these respondents should preferably have had the opportunity to observe the assessed individual in different contexts. Results from a retrospective evaluation should be interpreted with caution.
  • Making a diagnosis of mental retardation is not like baking a cake, where one opens a book, follows the in order to meet societal settings (Luckasson et al., prescribed instructions, and out comes the certainty of whether or not a diagnosis such as mental retardation exists. Making a diagnosis of mild mental retardation is one of the more challenging diagnoses to make (Schalock et al., 2007). Most forensic psychologists have broad clinical training as well as training and experience to work with the courts and criminal defendants. Mental retardation professionals often have training and experience in working with individuals with and without mental retardation, but lack the training regarding the forensic science. The Atkins Supreme Court decision has resulted in the bridging of two fields: forensic psychology and the interdisciplinary field of mental retardation. Perhaps it is time to answer Everington and Olley’s (2008) call for forensic and mental retardation professionals to join forces and provide leadership in developing practice of mental retardation proposed practice guidelines should build upon an established national standard for diagnosing mental retardation (such as the AAIDD system), or else we risk creating a clinical diagnosis and a forensic diagnosis of mental retardation. guidelines for in the forensic the diagnosis setting.
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ICDP blog now listed as American Bar Association blawg

I'm pleased to announce that that ICDP blog is now listed as an American Bar Association blawg. Click here to view the ICDP listing at the ABA blawg page.  I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all potential new readers that may come from the ABA blawg resource page. Please feel free to e-mail me questions and comments.

I also invite interested professionals in the legal profession who work with Atkins cases to consider guest blog posts. If you have a topic, issue, case, etc., that you would like to share with others, contact me regarding the possibility of a guest blog post.  Also, if you are aware of an article, blog post, etc., that is relevant to the topics covered at this blog, I would appreciate and welcome receiving a copy for possible posting.

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Review articles (2005) on Daubert standard and role of social science in death penalty cases

Annual Review of Law and Social Science
Vol. 1: 105-130 (Volume publication date December 2005)
First published online as a Review in Advance on June 28, 2005


Michael J. Saks 1 and David L. Faigman 2
1 College of Law and Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287; 2 Hastings College of the Law, University of California, San Francisco, California 94102; email:,
Abstract: Daubert stands for a trilogy of Supreme Court cases as well as revisions of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Together they represent American law's most recent effort to filter expert evidence offered at trial. This review begins by placing the Daubert trilogy in the context of earlier judicial efforts to solve the screening problem, which began well before the twentieth century, and then provides a brief explication of evidence law under Daubert. Next, we discuss several aspects of the jurisprudence of expert evidence: its connection to debates in the philosophy of science, the practical legal problems courts are trying to solve, and procedural implications. Then we review and discuss varied impacts of Daubert: changes in law, marked increases in cases and scholarship relating to expert evidence, and research examining judicial gatekeeping under Daubert (civil defendants appear to benefit greatly and criminal defendants hardly at all). We conclude by offering several predictions and prescriptions for the future of expert evidence.

Annual Review of Law and Social Science
Vol. 1: 151-170 (Volume publication date December 2005)
First published online as a Review in Advance on June 30, 2005

THE DEATH PENALTY MEETS SOCIAL SCIENCE: Deterrence and Jury Behavior Under New Scrutiny (click here to view)

Robert Weisberg
Stanford University, School of Law, Stanford, California 94305; email:
Abstract: Social science has long played a role in examining the efficacy and fairness of the death penalty. Empirical studies of the deterrent effect of capital punishment were cited by the Supreme Court in its landmark cases in the 1970s; most notable was the 1975 Isaac Ehrlich study, which used multivariate regression analysis and purported to show a significant marginal deterrent effect over life imprisonment, but which was soon roundly criticized for methodological flaws. Decades later, new econometric studies have emerged, using panel data techniques, that report striking findings of marginal deterrence, even up to 18 lives saved per execution. Yet the cycle of debate continues, as these new studies face criticism for omitting key potential variables and for the potential distorting effect of one anomalously high-executing state (Texas). Meanwhile, other empiricists, relying mainly on survey questionnaires, have taken a fresh look at the human dynamics of death penalty trials, especially the attitudes and personal background factors that influence capital jurors.

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Forthcomming (2010) articles of interest in Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences

Possible articles of interest to readers of  this blog in  forthcoming issue of the Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences (2010)

Annual Review of Law and Social Science
, Vol. 6 (Volume publication date December 2010)

The Law's Use of Brain Evidence
Jay Aronson

Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Strategic Analysis of Judicial Opinions
Lee Epstein
School of Law, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611-3069

The Implications for the New Neuroscience in the Law
Oliver Goodenough

Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT 05068

The Cult of Forensic Science
Jennifer L. Mnookin

Law School, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476

Psychological Syndromes and Criminal Responsibility
Christopher Slobogin

Law School, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203-1181

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Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences: Darley (2009) on Morality in the Law

Morality in the Law: The Psychological Foundations of Citizens’ Desires to Punish Transgressions

An article  from the most recent Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences.  I'll be adding to the list of publications that this blog monitors.

John M. Darley
Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08540; email:

Annual Review of Law and Social Science
Vol. 5: 1-23 (Volume publication date December 2009)
First published online as a Review in Advance on July 29, 2009
Morality in the Law: The Psychological Foundations of Citizens’ Desires to Punish Transgressions


Evidence from a number of research methods converges to suggest that when a person registers a transgression against self or others, the person experiences an intuitively produced, emotionally tinged reaction of moral outrage. The reaction is driven by the just deserts–based retributive reactions of the person to the transgression rather than, for instance, considerations of the deterrent force of the punishment. In experimental games arranged so that trust and fairness transgressions occur, participants punish transgressors and experience rewarding brain states while doing so, and they punish even if they were not themselves the target of the violation. What, if any, implications does this have for the punishment component of societal systems of justice? Would it be possible to construct sentencing practices that, to some extent, incorporated citizens’ sense of just punishments? What would be gained by doing so? And what would be lost?

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

iPost: And yet another. This time cost of DP and Texas

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iPost: Yet another study on cost of DP

Duke study on cost of DP in NC. Check out link to SLP blog

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

iPost: Factors contributing to induced false confessions

Factors influencing police-induced confessions--including intellectual disability. Complete paper can be downloaded by following  link here.

Police-Induced Confessions: Risk Factors and Recommendations

Saul M. Kassin 
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Steven A. Drizin 
Northwestern University - School of Law, Bluhm Legal Clinic

Thomas Grisso 
University of Massachusetts at Worcester - University of Massachusetts Medical School

Gisli H. Gudjonsson 
University of London - King's College London

Richard A. Leo 
University of San Francisco - School of Law

Allison D. Redlich 
affiliation not provided to SSRN

Law and Human Behavior, 2009

Recent DNA exonerations have shed light on the problem that people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit. Drawing on police practices, laws concerning the admissibility of confession evidence, core principles of psychology, and forensic studies involving multiple methodologies, this White Paper summarizes what is known about police-induced confessions. In this review, we identify suspect characteristics (e.g., adolescence; intellectual disability; mental illness; and certain personality traits), interrogation tactics (e.g., excessive interrogation time; presentations of false evidence; and minimization), and the phenomenology of innocence (e.g., the tendency to waive Miranda rights) that influence confessions as well as their effects on judges and juries. This article concludes with a strong recommendation for the mandatory electronic recording of interrogations and considers other possibilities for the reform of interrogation practices and the protection of vulnerable suspect populations.

Keywords: police interviews, interrogations, false confessions
Accepted Paper Series

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

IAP AP101 Brief #4: CHC theory of intelligence and its impact on contemporary intelligence test batteries

I frequently reference the CHC (Cattell-Horn-Carroll) theory of intelligence and the impact it has had on contemporary intelligence test development.  I realize that not everyone has the time to rummage through all the blog posts I've made regarding CHC theory.  Thus, today I'm posting a brief summary of CHC theory and its impact on applied intelligence test development.  The summary includes hyperlinks to key references, terms, and other readings (for more indepth information). 

The report can be viewed as a web page or can be downloaded or viewed as a PDF file.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Most recent Atkins decision. Garcia v Thayer (Texas, 2009): Should more have been done to explore discrepant IQ scores?

Garcia v Thayer (Texas, 2009) has been added to the Atkins-related Court Decisions blog sidebar.   A copy of the decision can be found by clicking here.  In addition, a copy of an psychological report can be found by clicking here.  Thanks to Kevin Foley for the files.

This case is interesting, if for no other reason that I got the feeling that the Atkins claim seemed to be given short shrift by all sides.  Apparently the only person who believed Garcia is ID/MR was his lawyer.  Even the psychological expert said he did not meet the diagnostic criteria for ID/MR despite a recent WAIS-IV of 55.  However, school records reported (before the age of 18--the third prong of MR/ID) WISC-R FS IQs of 90 and 85.  The current examiner pointed out the large discrepancy and indicated that the school-age IQ scores ruled out MR/ID before the age of 18 (third prong of definition).  However, the expert did not attempt to explain the significant discrepancies in scores.  The recommendation was made for neurological testing to determine possible reasons for the apparent drop in cognitive abilities....which is probably a good recommendation.

Of course, other issues should have been explored such as possible scoring errors and malingering to name a few.  As discussed in recent articles re: the responsibility of psychologists conducting Atkins evaluations, they have a professional responsibility to address discrepancies in scores when present.  I think more should have been done to investigate the possible reasons for such dramatic changes in scores.  Does the score drop reflect a real decline in cognitive functioning (due to environmental/neurological factors)...or...was the decrease NOT real and due to other measurement issues (e.g, scoring, malingering, etc.).  Curious minds want to know.

Do readers believe that more effort should have been expended to evaluate the large discrepancy between the childhood and adult IQ the presence of IQ scores in the "normal" range prior to 18 an immediate disqualification for MR/ID?  Should Atkins claims be based on intellectual potential or current level of intellectual functioning?  Not easy questions to answer.

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State special education definitions of MR/ID

Thanks to Randy Floyd for sending this article to me.  The article summarizes state eligibility guidelines for MR/ID as promulgated by state education agencies--thus covering the school-age population of students with potential MR/ID and special education services.  State law governing the definition and criteria for Atkin's decisions do not directly correspond with state special education rules, laws, and regulations.

Bergeron, R., Floyd, R., & Shands, E.  (2008).  States’ Eligibility Guidelines for Mental Retardation: An Update and Consideration of Part Scores and Unreliability of IQs.  Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 43(1), 123–131. (click here to view)

Mental retardation (MR) has traditionally been defined as a disorder in intellectual and adaptive functioning beginning in the developmental period. Guided by a federal definition of MR described in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it is the responsibility of each of the United States to describe eligibility guidelines for special education services. The purpose of this study was to examine eligibility guidelines for MR for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This study examined the terms used to describe MR, the use of classification levels, the cutoff scores, and the adaptive behavior considerations for each state. In addition, this study examined guidelines for consideration of intelligence test part scores and consideration of the unreliability of IQs through consideration of the standard error of measurement (SEM) or an IQ range. As found in previous studies, results revealed great variation in the specific eligibility guidelines for MR from state to state. The greatest variation appeared to be across the adaptive behavior considerations. Approximately 20% of states (10) recommend consideration of intelligence test part scores, and approximately 39% of states (20) recommend attention to unreliability of IQs through consideration of the SEM or an IQ range.

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Cultural competencies and forensic evaluations: Perlin & McClain (2009)

Perlin, M. & McClain, V. (2009).  Where souls are forgotten:  Cultural competencies, forensic evaluations, and internal human rights.  Psychology Public Policy and Law, 15(4), 257-277. (click here to view)

Cultural competency is critical in criminal forensic evaluations. Cultural competency eschews reliance on stereotypes, precluding the mistake of assuming that cultural dictates apply with equal force to all who share a cultural background, thus allowing the forensic examiner to provide a comprehensive picture of the defendant to the fact-finder. While raised frequently in death penalty cases, the idea of cultural competency is equally important to the entire criminal process. To better understand the significance of this inquiry, we address how cultural sensitivity in test selection and interview techniques may enhance result validity. In a parallel fashion, ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has drawn importance to cultural competency. Although international human rights and cultural sensitivity have been considered with regard to race, gender, and religion, applications to criminal matters are still in their infancy. This article considers strategies to enhance the effectiveness of testimony and mitigation efforts.

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iPost: Psychology, Public Policy, and Law - Volume 15, Issue 4

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law

Volume 15, Issue 4

Capital jury decision-making: The limitations of predictions of future violence.
Page 223-256
Cunningham, Mark D.; Sorensen, Jon R.; Reidy, Thomas J.
Field validity of the STATIC-99 and MnSOST-R among sex offenders evaluated for civil commitment as sexually violent predators.
Page 278-314
Boccaccini, Marcus T.; Murrie, Daniel C.; Caperton, Jennifer D.; Hawes, Samuel W.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

iPost: Is autism on deck to be the next group to be considered to be excluded from capital punishment

Interesting story re use of autism as a defense for a crime. Could
autism and autistic spectrum disorders (eg, aspergers) be the new MR/
ID exclusion from capital punishment? Did the original SCOTUS Atkins
decision open the door of the proverbial "slippery slope"
If you thought MR/ID diagnosis was complicated this would be much more

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iPost: More on trends in death penalty and executions

More on changing trends in death penalty and executions. Many articles have been published over the past six months re: these trends that were summarized in recent 2009 DPIC report.

Thanks to Tim Derning for sending these links to TIME magazine coverage

Friday, December 18, 2009

Atkins court decisions: Williams v LA (2009), Burke v Ohio (2005), Pierce v Thaler (2009)

Three more Atkins court decisions posted to the Atkins Court Decisions sidebar.  Thanks to Kevin Foley and Karen Salekin for the files.  Click on citation to view the file.
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iPost: FYI Five laws of human nature


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iPost: DPIC 2009 year end death penalty report

You can get your yeat end DPIC report at link below

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

iPost: UN leader asks for international ban on the death penalty

Over at the DPIC blog.

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Research Briefs 12-17-09: Asian-American sentencing; does death penalty deter crime?; public opinions re: crime/punishment


Research on racial and ethnic disparities in criminal punishment is expansive but remains focused almost exclusively on the treatment of black and Hispanic offenders. The current study extends contemporary research on the racial patterning of punishments by incorporating Asian-American offenders. Using data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) for FY1997–FY2000, we examine sentencing disparities in federal district courts for several outcomes. The results of this study indicate that Asian Americans are punished more similarly to white offenders compared with black and Hispanic offenders. These findings raise questions for traditional racial conflict perspectives and lend support to more recent theoretical perspectives grounded in attribution processes of the courtroom workgroup. The article concludes with a discussion of future directions for research on understudied racial and ethnic minority groups.

Land, K. C., Teske, R. H. C., & Zheng, H. (2009). THE SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF EXECUTIONS ON HOMICIDES: DETERRENCE, DISPLACEMENT, OR BOTH? Criminology, 47(4), 1009-1043.

Does the death penalty save lives? In recent years, a new round of research has been using annual time-series panel data from the 50 U.S. states for 25 or so years from the 1970s to the late 1990s that claims to find many lives saved through reductions in subsequent homicide rates after executions. This research, in turn, has produced a round of critiques, which concludes that these findings are not robust enough to model even small changes in specifications that yield dramatically different results. A principal reason for this sensitivity of the findings is that few state-years exist (about 1 percent of all state-years) in which six or more executions have occurred. To provide a different perspective, we focus on Texas, a state that has used the death penalty with sufficient frequency to make possible relatively stable estimates of the homicide response to executions. In addition, we narrow the observation intervals for recording executions and homicides from the annual calendar year to monthly intervals. Based on time-series analyses and independent-validation tests, our best-fitting model shows that, from January 1994 through December 2005, evidence exists of modest, short-term reductions in homicides in Texas in the first and fourth months that follow an execution—about 2.5 fewer homicides total. Another model suggests, however, that in addition to homicide reductions, some displacement of homicides may be possible from one month to another in the months after an execution, which reduces the total reduction in homicides after an execution to about .5 during a 12-month period. Implications for additional research and the need for future analysis and replication are discussed.

Cochran, J. K., & Sanders, B. A. (2009). The gender gap in death penalty support: An exploratory study. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(6), 525-533.

One of the more enduring observations in the study of death penalty support within the United States is the strong divide between males and females. Men have consistently shown significantly higher levels of support for capital punishment than women. This divide between males and females has appeared in nearly every survey, over time, and across a variety of methodological designs. Using data from the cumulative (1972-2002) data file for the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) General Social Surveys, this study attempted to understand the basis for this gender gap. It examined gender differences in socioeconomic status, gender inequality, gender socialization, religion/religiosity, political ideology, positions on right-to-life and other social issues, fear of crime and victimization experience, experience with the criminal justice system, philosophies of punishment, and attribution styles. The findings revealed that the effect of gender on capital punishment support continued to be robust despite controlling for the effects of all of these explanations.

Cook, C. L., & Lane, J. (2009). The place of public fear in sentencing and correctional policy. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(6), 586-595.

Public opinion about sentencing and correctional issues has emerged in recent decades as a salient topic in criminology. Empirical studies have suggested that the public has dynamic perceptions about these criminal justice issues. Sentencing and correctional policy have become key issues confronting legislators and policymakers, as correctional budgets and public interest in these areas have increased. Despite the focus on public opinion about sentencing and corrections, previous research has largely ignored how the public feels about the role of policymakers regarding these issues, and what influences opinions about whether public fear should be an important consideration in policy decisions. The current study partly replicated the work of Cullen and colleagues by examining perceptions of crime salience, crime causation, goals of the criminal justice system, and attitudes towards imprisonment and rehabilitation. It uniquely examined perceptions about the importance of legislator consideration of a specific determinant, namely, public fear, in decision making about sentencing and correctional policy.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

AAIDD intellectual disability manual (11th edition): Intelligence component -1 SD below average? Part 2 in series

As promised, this is the second in my series of comments re: the intellectual component of the new AAIDD manual.  I urge readers, if they have not done so, to read my original post.  In the first post I outlined the reason for the series.  I also highlighted positive features of the AAIDD component (chapter 4) of the manual and acknowledged that no manual will be perfect. 

Reproduced below are the four major concerns I raised re: the IQ component of the AAIDD 2010 manual:  In this second post in the series, I will address #3, as it lays the foundation for # 1 and #2. 
  1. A failure to reflect state-of-the-art intelligence theory and assessment research.
  2. A misunderstanding and inaccurate description of the major intelligence theories.
  3. An apparent lack of scientific rigor in the section on the nature and definition of intelligence as evidenced by little in the way of substantive revision of the content (and minimal reference updating or “refreshing”) from the 2002 manual to the same section in the 2010 manual—resulting in the failure to incorporate significant advances and the emerging consensus regarding the nature of psychometrically-based intelligence theories, theories that have historically provided the foundation for technically sound intelligence batteries used in ID diagnosis and classification.
  4. The elimination of the 2002 section that reviewed commonly available intelligence test batteries. 
Below is a table I constructed to organize my comments re: point #3 above.  The first column lists all references in the comparable chapter (4) in the 2002 red manual, minus the section that reviewed commonly available intelligence scales (which is no longer included in the 2010 red manual--#4 above).  The second column is an accounting of the references in the comparable chapter (again chapter 4) in the new 2010 green manual.  References that are retained are designated by an "X."  New references in the 2010 manual are listed.  The third column categorizes the topic area (in Chapter 4, 2010) that each new reference addresses.  All references (across editions) that in any way address any aspect of the nature, definition, and theories of intelligence are designated in bold font.  I will use this comparative table to organize my comments below. [Click here if you want a PDF copy of the table -- I recognize that the version embedded in the blog post is fuzzy and hard to I would suggest downloading the PDF file for a more readable version]

  • The new 2010 green manual chapter on intellectual functioning (hereafter simply referred to as the green manual; the 2002 hereafter referred to as the red manual), includes 26 different references not in the red manual.  Of those with a post-red manual publication date (2002-2010), there are 11 (starting with Luckasson et al., 2002).  Of these more contemporary references, none of them address the nature and definition of intelligence, as reflected in literature that informs the development and use of instruments to measure intellectual functioning.  Two of these citations reference the 2002 manual (or a related manual resource), 6 address the Flynn Effect, one deals with cutoff scores, and two cover issues related to extreme scores.  Surely significant research has been published since 2002 that addresses the definition, theories, and nature of the construct of intelligence. 
  • Of the 26 new green manual references, only 5 (approx 19 %) are included in sections addressing the definition, theories, and nature of intelligence.  The most recent of these 5 new references are 12-13 years old.  All other so defined references span the years from 1970 to 1990.
Comment #1:  This simple date-based tally, although not telling the complete story (which will be discussed below) suggests a lack of integration of contemporary intelligence research in the green manual.  As an applied psychometrician with active interests in intelligence theories and test development, the green manual appears (on face value) to already be out-of-date regarding contemporary developments re: psychometric theories of intelligence--theories that have produced significant improvements in existing (Wechslers) and new intelligence batteries.

But what of the 6 bold references in the red manual with dates between 2000-2002?  Did they provide an adequate assessment of the state-of-the-art of intelligence theories and definitions in the red manual?  Lets take a peek.
  • Four of these 6 references (Beebe et al, 2000; Kihlstrom & Cantor, 2000; Greenspan et al., 2001, Greenspan, in press [eventually published in 2003]) address issues related to the construct of social intelligence (e.g., how to measure it, gullibility, social vulnerability, etc.).  These are important topics, but they are not addressing the construct of psychometric intelligence--rather, they are focusing primarily on Greenspan's important work regarding social intelligence, a construct currently more associated with the definition and nature of adaptive behavior (AB).
  • The Davidson & Downing (2000) reference is related to Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences (MI), a theory that the green manual correctly points out as never resulting in any psychometrically sound practical assessment instrument for MR/ID identification.
  • Finally, the Glutting et al. (2000) reference is a test-specific citation related to the Wide Range Intelligence Test (WRIT).

Comment #2:  The lack of inclusion of all but one of these references (Greenspan et al., 2001) in the green manual does not appear to be a significant loss of information re: the definition, theories and nature of intelligence.  However, what does this say about the most contemporary references in the preceding red manual?

Going back further in the red manual (first column), one does not locate solid psychometric intelligence theory and research references until 1997. On what evidence do I base this claim?
  • Two of the references (Chen & Gardner, 1997; Gardner, 1998) again deal with Gardner's theory of MI (see comment above).
  • Three are by Greenspan and colleagues and address important issues---but unfortunately not issues related to consensus-based theories of intelligence that have produced useful tools for MR/ID diagnosis and classification.  Greenspan & Love (1997) cover the construct of social intelligence; Greenspan (1997) was a critique of the earlier blue maual ("Dead Manual Walking"); Greenspan (199b) focused on the definition of mental retardation.
  • The three intelligence definition/theory references (in the red manual) which (IMHO) are representative of literature addressing contemporary general intelligence research and theory (with implications for assessment and identification of MR/ID) are Carroll (1997b), Gottfredson (1997) and Naglieri (1997). Of these three, two (Gottfredson, 1997; Naglieri & Das, 1997) are still in the green manual.  
Comment #3:  The preceding analysis, when combined with Comment #1, suggests that the current 2010 AAIDD green manuals scientific and research foundation for the first prong of MR/ID diagnosis and classification (intellectual functioning) is based primarily on literature that is out of date....12-13 years old (1996-1997). 

Comment # 4:  Although the green book did not include a section on commonly used intelligence tests, a number of references citing select cognitive measures are similarly dated.  The chapter repeatedly refers to the 1986 SB4.  The SB4 was revised to the SB5 in 2003.  When mentioning special purpose tests, reference is made to the original CTONI (1997) and not the recently revised CTONI-2 (2009) and the 1983 Slossen Intelligence Test which has also been revised (most current publication date is 2002).

Concluding comment:  An analysis of the reference literature cited in of the AAIDD 2010 green manual's definition of intelligence chapter (which is critically related to the diagnosis and identification of individuals with ID) is dated (over 10 years old).  Significant consensus-based developments have occurred during this period of time and, unfortunately, the AAIDD manual fails to ground it's definition of intelligence in contemporary intelligence research

In my next series of posts, which will be the most important in the series, I will defend my conclusions via the provision of references and empirically-based conclusions that have been emerged from the field of intelligence research, theory and test development.  Regular readers of this blog (and those familiar with my research) obviously know where I am headed.  Individuals who want to develop an "advanced organizer" for this forthcoming material should consider consulting information provided here, here, here, here, here, and here.  For those who are very ambitious, I've generated a rather lengthy reference list that demonstrates the breadth and depth of contemporary psychometric research that has recently converged on a general consensus re: the nature and structure of psychometric intelligence.  More importantly, this extant research has resulted in a wealth of available contemporary IQ batteries that can be used in the idenification of individuals with ID.  I will be summarizing this information in my next posts in this series---so, sit back if you do not have time and want the Readers Digest version.  It may be a week or so before I can develop this more content-heavy material.

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iPost: Cost of death penaly

Yet another article on the coats if the death penalty. Thanks. DPIC for the post.

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iPost: More on controversies and delays for DSM V

Thanks to MIND HACKS.

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iPost: Another review of "The Last Lawyer"

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Begin forwarded message:

From: Julien Ball <>
Date: December 16, 2009 9:05:01 AM CST
To: CEDP National <>
Subject: [CEDP] Book puts death penalty on trial

Book puts death penalty on trial
Kleinschmidt is a protagonist
Non-fiction author John Temple took a gamble.The former Greensboro News & Record reporter and current West Virginia University professor wanted access to case files and confidential meetings at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, so he promised not to publish his book about Durham's death-row appeals lawyers until inmate Bo Jones was either executed or taken off death row.
"There were times in there when I really wondered: Am I going to be following this case for 20 years?" Temple said.
But five years later, Temple is able to tell the story of the center's efforts to save Jones from lethal injection in his new book, "The Last Lawyer."
The book takes a reader into the tangled web of death-penalty jurisprudence, where judges and prosecutors look all too human and life or death decisions sometimes hang on hapless defense attorneys. Temple doesn't spare his protagonists either: former CDPL director Ken Rose, the hero of the story, uses his condescending "West Point look" on colleagues who have disappointed him; Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, another center lawyer, reveals a smoking habit.
"It does a good job of capturing the stress and the anxiety," said Kleinschmidt. "It may reveal more ... than we may have felt comfortable with."
But Rose gave Temple the access because he believes the public would not tolerate the current death-penalty system if people understood how it works. Jones, with a low IQ and mental illness, went to death row based on no evidence of his guilt other than the testimony of his impoverished ex-girlfriend whom prosecutors had paid to testify.
"He was poor. He had no money. He was borderline mentally retarded. He had serious issues with mental illness. He had difficulty assisting his trial counsel and assisting with his defense," Rose said. "Those were the reasons why he was convicted and sentenced to death, and that shouldn't be."
"The Last Lawyer" leaves open the question of Jones' innocence; an ineffective justice system bears the only clear burden of guilt in the story. His co-defendant Larry Lamb remains in prison, for life, based solely on testimony from the same witness.
"It's a burning question in this case," Rose said of who actually killed bootlegger Leamon Grady in Duplin County. "It is open-ended in the book. It is incredibly disturbing. We didn't get that [answer, in the book], and we didn't get that in real life."
Temple said he had to come to terms with that early in the process, so he could focus on painting a real-life portrait of Rose and his colleagues.
"I understood that I was never going to know and no one was ever going to know," he said. "That's never going to be found out. The investigation was so cold by the time they even identified Bo Jones as a suspect. There was not some kind of big-time investigation where you could go back and kind of dig something up."
Rather than a typical "murder mystery," "The Last Lawyer" is more like a "conviction mystery," asking, how did Bo Jones end up on death row? The book follows the case from a failed attempt at "appropriate relief" on grounds of mental illness and inadequate defense in Duplin County, to Jones' day in federal court.
The eventual outcome shocked Jones' lawyers, and this article will not spoil the ending for readers unfamiliar with the case. "The Last Lawyer," despite its weighty content, reads like a story, a piece of narrative nonfiction with the characterization and scene-setting of a novel.
Durham attorney Jay Ferguson enjoyed it for its realism. "That's what a lot of lawyers deal with on a daily basis," he said.
Temple, whose previous book described the lives of coroners, set out to write a book on lawyers and ended up latching onto one particular case.
"[The books are] about unusual jobs - jobs that a lot of people wouldn't want but are really interesting and sort of dramatic," he said. "[For my next book] I want to do something a little lighter than the last two subjects. Something without death in the title."
Rose said Temple took a complicated topic and translated it for a lay reader. He hopes the book will result in more cases getting a federal hearing and perhaps influence legislators to shield mentally ill convicts from capital punishment, as a current bill in the General Assembly proposes.
"I would like [readers] to see how often justice in capital cases can be a crapshoot," Rose said. "Most lawyers don't get this stuff .. and, for the public, it's just very difficult. John ... really spent a lot of time trying figure this stuff out."