This article highlights best practices for assessing MR and ID in capital cases with an emphasis on Atkins trial preparation and potential problems the authors have noted through experience. These best practices in Atkins hearings concern issues for the lawyers, forensic psychologists, and neuropsychologists, which include:
1. Practice effects and IQ testing
2. Consistency of IQ scores over time
3. Flynn Effect
4. Malingering versus cognitive suboptimal effort
5. Lack of records indicating pre-age 18 diagnosis of MR/ID
6. Retrospective assessment of adaptive behaviors
7. Death row trends of increasing IQ over the years while incarcerated
8. Maladaptive behaviors versus symptoms of conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder
9. There need be no nexus between an Atkins finding of mental retardation and the adaptive behavioral aspects of criminal and homicidal behavior
10. Potential bias of collateral informants
11. Cultural issues inherent in IQ and adaptive testing
12. Considering the utilization of different experts within a particular case, i.e., assessment of adaptive functioning versus assessment of intelligence
13. Videotaping assessments
14. Litigation strategies expanding MR/ID findings.
Due to the length requirement of this article, some of these issues will be addressed and not to the extent of their respected complexities.
John Matthew Fabian, William W. Thompson, and Jeffrey B. Lazarus,
Life, Death, and IQ: It's Much More than Just a Score: Understanding and Utilizing Forensic Psychological and Neuropsychological Evaluations in Atkins Intellectual Disability/Mental Retardation Cases,
59 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol59/iss3/7