Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Court decisions: Mitchell v Epps (MS, 2010)

Court decisions: Ortiz v US (2007)

Ortiz v US (2007) has been added to the Court Decisions (n=93) blog roll section.

Law Review Article: The Geography of Criminal Law

New law review article by Adam Benforado (Drexel University - Earle Mack School of Law):  The Geography of Criminal Law (Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2010) on SSRN (click here to go to download link).


When Westerners explain the causes of actions or outcomes in the criminal law context, they demonstrate a strong tendency to overestimate the importance of dispositional factors, like thinking, preferring, and willing, and underestimate the impact of interior and exterior situational factors, including environmental, historical, and social forces, as well as affective states, knowledge structures, motives, and other unseen aspects of our cognitive frameworks and processes. One of the situational factors that we are particularly likely to overlook is physical space - that is, landscapes, places, natures, boundaries, and spatialities. Our shortsightedness comes at a great cost. Spatial concerns shape legal structures, order interactions, and influence behavior.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

AAIDD Manual on intellectual disability: Interviews related to legal, education and background of 11th edtion


The AAIDD web site now has three video interviews available for viewing that deal with three broad topics related to the new green manual.  The titles, presenters, and links are provided below.  Click here for prior blomgaster (Dr. Kevin McGrew) critiques of the manual's chapter on intellectual functioning.

On Legal Aspects of the New Intellectual Disability Definition Manual.  Co-author Ruth Luckasson, JD Distinguished Professor, University of New Mexico

On the New Intellectual Disability Definition Manual.
  Co-author Bob Shalock, PhD Professor Emeritus and Former Psychology Chair, Hastings College

On Education Aspects of the New Intellectual Disability Definition Manual.  Co-author Martha E. Snell, PhD Professor of Special Education, University of Virginia

Saturday, March 27, 2010

iPost; Why we have the death penalty part II

Story at Crime and Consequences blog--one of the better blogs for
general info on criminal justice issues.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Law Review Article: Judicial "Decisional Sequencing" by Rutledge (2010)

Interesting article  in University of Georgia Law School Review that presents a conceptual framework for understanding judicial decision making.  Article is called "Decisional Sequencing" and is written by Peter Rutledge.  Abstract and link to article download can be found by clicking here.  An interesting conceptual lens framework is presented and discussed.

[double click on image below to enlarge]

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

iPost: Franklins review of "Criminal Responsibility"

Karen Franklin has a nice review of the book "Criminal Responsibility"
at her excellent blog. See link below

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Research Briefs 3-14-10: WAIS-III/WISC-IV score differences in special education population

Gordon, S., Duff, S., Davidson, T., & Whitaker, S. (2010). Comparison of the WAIS-III and WISC-IV in 16-Year-Old Special Education Students. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23(2),


Previous research with earlier versions of the WISC and WAIS has demonstrated that when administered to people who have intellectual disabilities, the WAIS produced higher IQ scores than the WISC. The aim of this study was to examine whether these differences still exist. A comparison of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale - Third Edition (WAIS-III) with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) was conducted with individuals who were 16?years old and receiving special education. Materials and Methods

All participants completed the WAIS-III (UK) and WISC-IV (UK). The order of administration was counterbalanced; the mean Full Scale IQ and Index scores on the WAIS-III and WISC-IV were compared. Results

The WAIS-III mean Full Scale IQ was 11.82 points higher than the mean Full Scale IQ score on the WISC-IV. Significant differences were also found between the Verbal Comprehension Index, Perceptual Reasoning/Organization Index and Processing Speed Index on the WAIS-III and WISC-IV, all with the WAIS-III scoring higher. Conclusions

The findings suggest that the WAIS-III produces higher scores than the WISC-IV in people with intellectual disabilities. This has implications for definitions of intellectual disability and suggests that Psychologists should be cautious when interpreting and reporting IQ scores on the WAIS-III and WISC-IV.

Keywords: intellectual disability diagnosis; intelligence test; WAIS-III; WISC-IV

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ABA Blawg Review Death Penalty blog roll

Court Decisions: Prosecutors waive death penalty correctly in two Atkins MR/ID cases

A couple of recent Atkins cases where the state agreed to waive death because the defendant was ID.  It is nice to see the prosecutors willing to admit that someone is MR/ID when it is clear.  There is hope for correct implementation for Atkins cases.  Thanks to Kevin Foley for alerting me to these updates.

Oregon murder defendant, James Demetri Davenport, will not face death. According to the March 20th Statesman Journal, "Marion County prosecutors dropped plans to seek the death penalty against Davenport after his mental disability was confirmed by separate evaluations performed by experts hired by defense lawyers and the prosecution, said Matt Kemmy, a deputy district attorney."

Arkansas, defendant Normal Brandon Dewayne Johnson, will also not face the death penalty. According to the March 13th Arkansas Democate Gazette,  " Prosecutors on Thursday dropped their plans to seek the death penalty against a 22-year-old Little Rock man accused in a string of armed holdups and shootings that left three men dead, including a university instructor, after doctors determined him to be mentally retarded.  "Arkansas law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent bar the execution of mentally retarded defendants whose IQs are 65 or below. Testing at the State Hospital in Little Rock measured Brandon Dewayne Johnson's IQ at 55, according to a mental health evaluation filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court on Tuesday."

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Research Briefs 3-23-10: Why does the public want to be tough on crime?

Unnever, J. D., & Cullen, F. T. (2010). THE SOCIAL SOURCES OF AMERICANS' PUNITIVENESS: A TEST OF THREE COMPETING MODELS*. Criminology, 48(1), 99-129.

public opinion • theories of punitiveness • racial animus • crime-control policy


The sustained movement to "get tough" on crime, especially through mass imprisonment, has prompted several prominent efforts to explain the public's harshness toward crime. From the extant literature, we demarcate the following three competing theories of public punitiveness: the escalating crime-distrust model, the moral decline model, and the racial animus model. Controlling for other known predictors of crime-related opinions, we test the explanatory power of these perspectives to account for support for the death penalty and for a punitive crime-control approach. Our analysis of a national sample of respondents surveyed in the 2000 National Election Study reveals partial support for each model. Racial animus, however, seems to exert the most consistent effect on public sentiments. This finding suggests that racial resentments are inextricably entwined in public punitiveness and thus should be incorporated into any complete theory of this phenomenon.

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Court Decisions: Hughs v Epps (MI, 2010): Death penalty decision vacated

Court decisions: Parrish v KY (2008, 2010): With Guest Blog post by Kevin Foley: Courts need to explain better

Parrish v KY (2008, 2010) has just been posted to the Court Decisions blog roll. 

Also, Kevin Foley has provided the following guest commentary re: the published decisions

Some Courts Need to Do a Better Job Explaining Their Decisions

Sometimes the decisions in Atkins cases don’t make sense, or the court simply fails to supply sufficient facts to allow the reader to draw the appropriate conclusions.  An example of a deficient decision can be found in the matter of Melvin Lee Parrish. The Kentucky Supreme Court denied Parrish’s intellectual disability (mental retardation) claim, asserting that the evidence from his original trial, which was held prior to Atkins, showed that he was not mentally retarded. The court specifically noted that, “a psychologist at Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center (KCPC) [who examined and tested Parrish] . . . testified that Appellant’s IQ was 79 and that a previous IQ score of 68 from when Appellant was fifteen was the result of a lack of motivation.”[1]  What is lacking in the court’s decision is any explanation of what facts allowed the expert to conclude that there was “a lack of motivation” on the part of Parrish. Ostensibly, the court used the so-called lack of motivation to create the inference that the score of 68 was invalid, and thus of little consequence.

To confuse the reader even more, in a later section of the decision, when discussing the “mitigation” evidence, the court stated that there was testimony from the “County Director of Special Education, who ‘testified at length’ about Appellant’s time at Oldham County High School, including his ‘IQ and reading test scores, as well as his performance in classes for the educationally mentally handicapped’”.[2]  The designation “educationally mentally handicapped” likely means that the school system considered  Parrish to be mildly mentally retarded.[3] Or, in other words, that the IQ test score of 68, obtained when Parrish was 15, was in fact a valid estimation of Parrish’s level of intellectual functioning at the time. Unfortunately, the court supplied so few facts, that the reader of the decision is left to guess what the facts might have been. 

Consistent with the above, the court makes no mention of which tests were administered to Parrish. It is quite possible that the 79 IQ score was obtained on an obsolete or “old” version of the WAIS, and that, arguably, the obtained IQ score should have been adjusted for the Flynn Effect. And if one added to the analysis the standard error of measurement (SEM), one could argue that Parrish’s IQ was well within the range for a diagnosis of mental retardation.  But, reading the decision, one can only guess what tests were given, and whether the issues of the Flynn Effect and the SEM were even raised in the case. 

When a court publishes a decision like this, it creates serious negative impressions - one, perhaps the court was obfuscating the true facts; two, perhaps the court did not understand the nature of the issues and the underlying science; or three, the court does not like the holding of Atkins and is simply giving such cases a short shrift.  Of course, the alternative interpretation may hold true as well – that the court may have given the case an honest look and it did what it thought was appropriate under the circumstances.  But one thing is clear, this was a poorly written decision that left out important facts – as well as the court’s discussion of those facts - that the both the litigants and the public were entitled to know.

Parrish’s mental retardation claim still has some life left to it. A federal district habeas court recently denied the state’s motion to dismiss Parrish’s mental retardation claim on the basis that it was procedurally defaulted.[4]

1  Parrish v. Commonwealth,   272 S.W. 2d 161, 167, Case No. 2006-SC-000592-MR (Ky. 2008),  Slip op. at pg. 5.

2  Id. at 10, slip op. at pg. 10.

3 The precise phrases and terms used throughout the country – especially many years ago – differed somewhat; however, the phrases “educationally mentally handicapped,” “educably mentally handicapped, and “educably mentally retarded” can be considered synonymous, and are thought to concern mildly mentally retarded students. For example, Professor Rogers Elliott used “educably mentally retarded” (EMR) and  “educably mentally handicapped” (EMH) synonymously in his book which analyzed the landmark lawsuits,  Larry P. v. Riles, 343 F. Supp. 1306 (N.D. Cal. 1972); 495 F. Supp. 926 (N.D. Cal.  1979) and  PASE v. Hannon, 506 F. Supp. 831 (N.D. Ill. 1980).  Rogers Elliott, Litigating Intelligence 1 (1987). See also, Pickens v. State, 126 P. 3d  612 (Okla. Crim. App. 2005) (Pickens, who was educationally mentally handicapped when in school, was deemed to meet the Oklahoma Atkins standard) and People v. McMullen, 410 N.E. 2d 1174 (Ill. App. 1980) (testimony given that students who were educationally mentally handicapped had IQs between 50 and 70-7, the range associated with mild mental retardation).

4  Memorandum Opinion and Order, Parrish v. Simpson, Case No. 3:09-CV-254-H (W.D. Ky., Feb. 26, 2010).

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Monday, March 22, 2010

iPost: DPIC Weekly Updates : March 15, 2010 - March 22, 2010


Week of March 15, 2010 - March 22, 2010
[ ]

What's New

Budget Cuts in Georgia Threaten Courts

<SealGA.jpg>Georgia Supreme Court's chief justice recently warned that cuts to the state budget are making it increasingly difficult for its courts to carry out their constitutionally mandated duties. Carol Hunstein announced during a state of the judiciary address that the court's backlog has grown as money has dwindled. In 2009, the judicial branch received less than eight-tenths of 1% of the total state appropriations. Hunstein said, "The consequences of these cuts … hit everyone, threatening the basic constitutional rights of civil litigants and criminal defendants as core court functions go by the wayside. And, according to the Wall Street Journal article, while judiciaries are being squeezed nationwide, 'Georgia's situation appears particularly severe.'" Hunstein also indicated that one superior court judge has 16 death penalty cases still pending, partly because of the elimination of funding for senior judges. In Fulton County, there are currently 183 murder cases awaiting trial, half of which are more than a year old. Chief Judge Dee Downs said of the situation, "This isn't justice. We're losing the rule of law." Read more


EDITORIAL: "Death Row's Elimination Would Save State Money"

A recent editorial in the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review called for elimination of the death penalty in light of its high costs and the state's tight budget. Executions are uncertain and delayed by the necessity of appeals to ensure the constitutionality of the trial. The editorial cited a study by the Washington Bar Association that identified over $600,000 in additional costs for a capital case: "death penalty cases are estimated to generate roughly $470,000 in additional costs to the prosecution and defense over the cost of trying the same case as an aggravated murder without the death penalty and costs of $47,000 to $70,000 for court personnel. On direct appeal, the cost of appellate defense averages $100,000 more in death penalty cases than in non-death penalty murder cases." The editorial said changing the state's method of execution only sidestepped the problems and called for life imprisonment without the possibility parole as the best solution to the issues raised by the death penalty. Read full text: Read more

NEW RESOURCES: Slide Presentation of Police Chiefs' Views on the Death Penalty

<page13.jpg>The results of a poll of police chiefs recently featured in DPIC's report "Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis" is now available in the form of a slide presentation on the Web, suitable for use in workshops or discussion groups. The poll, commissioned by DPIC and conducted by R.T. Strategies of Washington, DC, surveyed a national sample of 500 randomly selected U.S. police chiefs on questions regarding the death penalty and reducing violent crime. Although the police chiefs did not oppose the death penalty philosophically, they found it to be an ineffective crime fighting tool.  Among those surveyed, only 1% of the chiefs listed greater use of the death penalty as the best way to reduce violence. The poll also showed police chiefs ranking the death penalty as the least efficient use of taxpayers' money among programs to fight crime.  Most of the police chiefs did not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.

Access the slide presentation here; read DPIC's "Smart on Crime" report. Read more


LAW REVIEWS: Challenging the Constitutionality of the Federal Death Penalty

A recent article in the Akron Law Review asks whether the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA) is in compliance with the Sixth Amendment's right to confront witnesses because it allows hearsay evidence in determining whether a defendant is eligible for the death penalty. During a typical criminal trial, the accused has the right to challenge and cross examine the testimony of state witnesses who must appear in person.  But in a death penalty case, the FDPA allows statements of witnesses not present in the courtroom to be used to determine whether the defendant's case fits one of the aggravating factors necessary for a death sentence.  The article's authors, Michael Pepson and John Sharifi, write: "[A]llowing the government to prove statutory aggravating factors … with testimonial hearsay, even where the defendant has never had an opportunity to cross-examine the declarant(s), is not constitutional."  The authors suggest two constitutional alternatives: doing away entirely with the FDPA or revising the law to include the aggravating-factor determination in the guilt phase of the trial, subject to the usual rules of evidence. This would allow federal capital defendants to confront witnesses regarding the critical question of whether they are eligible for a death sentence.  Read more

REPRESENTATION: Underfunded Georgia Capital Case Still Waiting for Trial After Five Years

<SealGA.jpg>Lawyers for Khanh Dinh Phan asked the Georgia Supreme Court to dismiss the charges against him or to bar the state from seeking the death penalty because the state has been unable to pay for Phan's defense. After his arrest in 2005, Chris Adams and Bruce Harvey were appointed to represent Phan. "The state of Georgia has made Mr. Harvey and myself potted plants," Adams recently said. "We are lawyers in name only. ... The state of Georgia has failed, and failed miserably, in this case."  The case has yet to go to trial, and the state public defender system has been unable to pay for attorney fees, expert witnesses, and for investigators. Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter agreed that there has been no money for the defense, and that the state defender system is "fatally flawed," but urged the judges not to dismiss the charges or strike the death penalty. Porter said, "We all agree that funding has not been provided, and I don't know if there's a realistic possibility funding will be provided."  The Georgia Supreme Court is expected to rule in a similar issue in which a Pike County death penalty defendant has waited four years to go to trial because there was no funding for his defense. Read more

DPIC depends on the generous donations from individuals, such as yourself, to continue educating the public on death penalty issues. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to the Death Penalty Information Center, please go HERE.

TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS UPDATE:  Send an email to [ ] from the address where you wish to receive this update, with the Subject Header "SUBSCRIBE."

Friday, March 19, 2010

iPost: J Am Acad Psychiatry Law Table of Contents for 1 March 2010; Vol. 38, No. 1

JAAPL Online Table of Contents Alert

A new issue of Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online is available online:
1 March 2010; Vol. 38, No. 1

The below Table of Contents is available online at:

Correctional Suicide: Has Progress Ended?
Annette Hanson
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 6-10

The Forensic Risks of DSM-V and How to Avoid Them
Allen Frances
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 11-14

The Mental Status Examination in the Age of the Internet
Patricia R. Recupero
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 15-26

Commentary: The Mental Status Examination in the Age of the Internet—Challenges and Opportunities
Jeffrey L. Metzner and Peter Ash
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 27-31

Conceptualizing the Forensic Psychiatry Report as Performative Narrative
Ezra E. H. Griffith, Aleksandra Stankovic, and Madelon Baranoski
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 32-42

Commentary: The Art of Forensic Report Writing
Kenneth L. Appelbaum
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 43-45

Commentary: Conceptualizing the Forensic Psychiatry Report
Robert M. Wettstein
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 46-48

Forensic Evaluations and Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse
Reena Kapoor and Howard Zonana
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 49-56

Commentary: Tarasoff Duties Arising From a Forensic Independent Medical Examination
Thomas G. Gutheil and Archie Brodsky
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 57-60

Improbable Predictions at Capital Sentencing: Contrasting Prison Violence Outcomes
Mark D. Cunningham and Jon R. Sorensen
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 61-72

Adolescent Parricide as a Clinical and Legal Problem
Carl P. Malmquist
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 73-79

An Empirical Study of Employment and Disability Over Three Years Among Survivors of Major Disasters
Sarah S. Rasco and Carol S. North
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 80-86

The "Pseudocommando" Mass Murderer: Part I, The Psychology of Revenge and Obliteration
James L. Knoll, IV
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 87-94

The Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008: Implications for the Forensic Psychiatrist
Charles L. Scott
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 95-99

Mentally Ill Persons Who Commit Crimes: Punishment or Treatment?
Yuval Melamed
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 100-103

Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challengefor Medical Ethics
Jeffrey L. Metzner and Jamie Fellner, Esq.
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 104-108

Assessment of Malingering With Repeat Forensic Evaluations: Patient Variability and Possible Misclassification on the SIRS and Other Feigning Measures
Richard Rogers, Michael J. Vitacco, and Samantha J. Kurus
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 109-114

My Father's Advocacy for a Right to Treatment
Rebecca Birnbaum
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 115-123

Upward Departure in Federal Sentencing Based on Mental Illness
Laura Jakul and Madelon Baranoski
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 124-126

Compulsory Psychiatric Testing
Matthew M. Leahy, Caroline J. Easton, and Laurie M. Edwards
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 126-128

Mute but Competent?
Brian K. Cooke and Chandrika Shankar
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 128-130

Degree of Proof Necessary to Establish Proximate Causation of Suicide
Sadaf Hashmi and Reena Kapoor
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 130-132

Physician's Duty to Treat Despite Religious Objection
Deborah Knudson Gonzalez and Kevin V. Trueblood
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 132-135

Ruling on Social Security Benefits
Jason Yanofski and Charles Dike
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 135-137

Duty to Warn Clarified
Chanley M. Martin and Paul F. Thomas
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 137-139

The Mentally Disordered Inmate and the Law
Gregory B. Leong
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 140-141

Detecting Lies and Deceit: Pitfalls and Opportunities
Thomas G. Gutheil
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 141-142

Writing Forensic Reports: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals
Sherif Soliman
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 142-143

Psychic Assaults and Frightened Clinicians: Countertransference in Forensic Systems
Patricia J. Campbell
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 143-144

Andrew P. Levin and Liza H. Gold
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 145-146

Matthew Large, Glen Smith, Olav Nielssen, and Scott Eliason
J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 2010;38 146-147

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

iPost: Policy chiefs PPT show on death penalty available

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iPost: What does WAIS-IV measure? In current edition of Psychological Assessment

Independent examination of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV): What does the WAIS-IV measure?

Sun, Mar 14 2010 10:00 PM 
by Benson, Nicholas; Hulac, David M.; Kranzler, John H.
Published empirical evidence for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Fourth Edition (WAIS–IV) does not address some essential questions pertaining to the applied practice of intellectual assessment. In this study, the structure and cross-age invariance of the latest WAIS–IV revision were examined to (a) elucidate the nature of the constructs measured and (b) determine whether the same constructs are measured across ages. Results suggest that a Cattell–Horn–Carroll (CHC)–inspired structure provides a better description of test performance than the published scoring structure does. Broad CHC abilities measured by the WAIS–IV include crystallized ability (Gc), fluid reasoning (Gf), visual processing (Gv), short-term memory (Gsm), and processing speed (Gs), although some of these abilities are measured more comprehensively than are others. Additionally, the WAIS–IV provides a measure of quantitative reasoning (QR). Results also suggest a lack of cross-age invariance resulting from age-related differences in factor loadings. Formulas for calculating CHC indexes and suggestions for interpretation are provided. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

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iPost: [CEDP] WA Supreme Court to hear death penalty debate

From: Julien Ball <>
Date: March 18, 2010 11:26:45 AM CDT
To: CEDP National <>
Subject: [CEDP] WA Supreme Court to hear death penalty debate

WA Supreme Court to hear death penalty debate

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the state's execution process.
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the state's execution process.
Thursday morning, the high court will hear debate on whether one aspect of a lawsuit filed by a death row inmate who is challenging the constitutionality of death penalty procedures is now moot because of a recent change made by the state Department of Corrections.
Earlier this month, the state revealed that it was changing its method of execution from a three-drug cocktail to a one-drug system.
The court will also consider whether the department has the authority to draft execution policy and whether lethal injection violates federal laws because a doctor doesn't obtain or administer the drugs.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

iPost: Detection of malingered MR/ID


Database: PsycARTICLES
[Journal Article]
Detection of malingered mental retardation.
Shandera, Anne L.; Berry, David T. R.; Clark, Jessica A.; Schipper, Lindsey J.; Graue, Lili O.; Harp, Jordan P.
Psychological Assessment. Vol 22(1), Mar 2010, 50-56. doi:10.1037/a0016585


  1. In a cross-validation of results from L. O. Graue et al. (2007), standard psychological assessment instruments, as well as tests of neurocognitive and psychiatric feigning, were administered under standard instructions to 24 participants diagnosed with mild mental retardation (MR) and 10 demographically matched community volunteers (CVH). A 2nd group of 25 community volunteers was instructed to malinger MR (CVM) during testing. CVM participants obtained Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (3rd ed.; D. Wechsler, 1997) Full Scale Intelligence Quotient scores that were significantly lower than the demographically similar CVH group but comparable to the MR group, suggesting that CVM subjects feigned cognitive impairment. On the basis of standard cutting scores from test manuals or published articles, of the 11 feigning measures administered, only the Test of Memory Malingering (TOMM; T. N. Tombaugh, 1996) retention trial had a specificity rate >.90 in the MR group. However, the 2nd learning trial of the TOMM, as well as a short form of the Digit Memory Test (T. J. Guilmette, K. J. Hart, A. J. Guiliano, & B. E. Leininger, 1994), approached this level of specificity, with both at .88. These results raise concerns about the specificity rates at recommended cutting scores of commonly used feigning tests in defendants with MR. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Law Review Article: Judging Cruelty (Ryan, 2010)

Another death penalty related Law Review article (click here) by Meghan Ryan, which builds on her prior article related to the eight ammendment.

The wisdom of the death penalty has recently come under attack in a number of states. This raises the question of whether states’ retreat from the death penalty, or other punishments, will pressure other states—either politically or constitutionally—to similarly abandon the punishment. Politically, states may succumb to the trend of jettisoning a penalty. Constitutionally, states may be forced to surrender the penalty if the punishment is considered cruel, and, as a result of a large number of states renouncing the penalty, the punishment also becomes unusual. If a punishment is thus found to be both cruel and unusual, it will be proscribed under the Eighth Amendment Punishments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Considering the disappearance of some punishments and emergence of new punishments, whether a punishment is cruel under the Punishments Clause is an important question. Curiously, there has been very little discussion of what constitutes a cruel punishment, as distinguished from whether a punishment is also unusual. This Article examines the concept of cruelty as enshrined in the Eighth Amendment Punishments Clause and suggests that the Supreme Court ought to focus on this elusive concept through its independent judgment analysis. The Article emphasizes that such an independent judgment focus on cruelty should be constrained by specific, identified factors and that these factors should go beyond examining the penological purposes of punishment. The Article asserts that motive and the nature and quality of a punishment are central to the concept of cruelty and suggests that a more nuanced understanding of punishment rationales, supplemented by factors focused on elements such as the bloody or lingering nature of the punishment, is necessary in properly determining whether a punishment is cruel under the Punishments Clause.

Keywords: Eighth Amendment, Punishments Clause, cruel and unusual, Kennedy v. Louisiana, retribution, retributivism, deterrence, deterrent, roper v. simmons, Baze v. Rees, Ford v. Wainwright, Stanford v. Kentucky, Penry v. Lynaugh, punishmemt. sentencing
Working Paper Serie

Monday, March 15, 2010

iPost: What type of people support the death penalty

Scott VollumContact Information and Jacqueline Buffington-VollumContact Information
(1) Department of Justice Studies, James Madison University, Moody 117, MSC 1205, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, USA
(2) Department of Justice Studies, James Madison University, Maury 207, MSC 1205, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, USA
Published online: 22 October 2009
This study examines the social-psychological factors of attributional styles, moral disengagement, and the value-expressive function of attitudes in relation to death penalty support and the robustness of that support. Respondents were first asked whether or not they supported the death penalty and were then presented several paragraphs of information exposing flaws or failures in the death penalty and asked how compelling they found the information and whether it impacted their death penalty attitudes. Results suggest that attributional style has little if any effect on death penalty support and that only a few aspects of moral disengagement seem to play a role. Value-expressiveness, on the other hand, appears to play a critical role in death penalty attitudes and support. Our findings suggest that when support is based on value-expressive foundations, it is more robust and unlikely to wane regardless of information or knowledge indicating problems with the death penalty.
Keywords  Death penalty - Death penalty attitudes - Capital punishment - Moral disengagement - Value expressive attitudes

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