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Retardation Nonsense

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In the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court drew a "bright line" and said persons with mental retardation cannot be executed under any circumstances.  Unfortunately, the line separating "mildly retarded" from "borderline intellectual functioning" is fuzzy and actually somewhat arbitrary.

Along with the fuzziness, there have been efforts to expand the definition of retardation to include people who would not be diagnosed as retarded under any preexisting clinical definitions.

In 2000, Robert Wayne Harris was working at the Mi-T-Fine Car Wash in Irving, Texas, when he masturbated in front of a female customer.  They fired him, of course.  The following Monday he returned with a gun, robbed the car wash, and shot six people, killing five of them.  Months earlier, he had abducted and killed another woman.  He was sentenced to death.

Harris's lawyers now claim he is retarded, but his pre-18 IQ tests are above 70, the cutoff for retardation.  The only test below 70 is the one given in preparation for his trial, when he had a powerful incentive to malinger.

Harris claims his scores should be adjusted for the "Flynn effect," which is an adjustment claimed by capital defense bar and their favorite crackpot to be needed to adjust for the fact that average IQ scores in the population have gradually risen over time.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that this is "an unexamined scientific concept that does not provide a reliable basis for concluding that an appellant had significant[ly] subaverage general intellectual functioning." Neal v. State, 256 S.W. 3d 254, 273 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008).  [Plain English:  a complete crock.]
The Fifth Circuit opinion is here.  The US Supreme Court today denied stays and certiorari in two orders here and here.  Michael Graczyk has this story for AP.

BTW, "retardation" is a precise, well-established term.  It is not pejorative, and there is no reason not to use it, especially when the alternatives some people are using are less precise.  Just say no to the PC Language Police.

4 Comments

More nonsense from the "therapeutic" culture into which we have declined. Accountability is verboten-everyone one has a previously undiscovered "condition" that requires treatment and absolution from resposibility.

There are all kinds of problems with the Flynn effect, including the fact that it seems to differ among those in the population, the effect seems to be diminishing recently, etc.

Atkins has really demonstrated the problems with categorical rules of mitigation.

"Unfortunately, the line separating 'mildly retarded' from 'borderline intellectual functioning' is fuzzy and actually somewhat arbitrary."

It's clear that some non-retarded individuals have been deemed ineligible because of activist courts---wonder why that isn't a "constitutionally intolerant event."

The fuzziness gives a fig leaf to SCOTUS--they can say they didn't constitutionalize an IQ test.

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