Friday, October 16, 2009

J. Williams (2007, Texas) IQ MR Atkins death penalty decision posted: Many issues raised

Another interesting Atkins court decision has been posted to the court decisions section of this blog.  Jeffrey Williams (Williams v Quarterman, Texas, 2007).  Augmenting this court decision is a copy of a psychological report included in the decision.  An initial read of the decision and the psychological report raises a number of interesting questions and issues, such as:

  • The apparent role of a judge becoming the psychometric expert when she decides which part score (verbal, nonverbal, full scale) to use to establish Williams level of intellectual functioning.  Kevin Foley has provided a guest post about this issue, which will be the next post at this blog.
  • The continued issue of part vs full scale IQ scores in Atkins cases. 
  • The role of  school records and school special education decisions made during elementary and secondary schooling in Atkins decisions.
  • The role of measured academic achievement in Atkins decisions, particularly the issue of whether a person who may be mentally retarded can achieve above their measured IQ (note - I've written about this previously and will make comments with appropriate links in a separate post..the answer is "yes").
  • The conceptually and technically messy issue of determining pre-incarceration levels of adaptive behavior retrospectively.  I'm hoping that a few experts in Atkins AB assessment will review the documents and weigh in on the information provided, expert opinions, and final decision.  This area is a definite methodological quagmire in Atkins cases. 
  • The whole issue of malingering and how to detect it
I will be making my own follow-up comments regarding some of these issues in the near future.

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  1. Reading through the psychologist's report was enlightening. I LOVE the use of grade equivalents=grade levels and the "interesting disparity" between standard scores of 70 and 79. I have not heard of doing adaptive behaviors through anecdotal information. Is this common?

  2. Yes. The use of anecdotal information is common as the critical assessment of AB is the person's at the time of the crime and not after the effects of incarceration. It is a messy area. See chapter by Olley that was mentioned previously at this blog. Also, Texas has a unique twist on AB called Briseno factors....a topic I hope to have someone guest blog about.