Saturday, April 24, 2010

Court Decisions: Ochoa (2010), McDade (2010) and Robinson (2010)

I'm working on cleaning up the backlog of Atkins decisions that have occurred recently.  In this post three more are added to the Court Decisions blogroll.  I've only skimmed these three briefly and only make brief comments (I can no longer keep up with reading and analyzing decisions----I'm more in an "FYI archive posting mode" for rulings at this time).  Thanks again to Kevin Foley for monitoring the pulse of decisions and sending copies my way.

Ochoa v Workman (OK, 2010) - Appears to be a week Atkins claim with Ochoa's own expert said not ID/MR.  Ochoa tried to argue even though maybe not ID/MR now he was at time of the murder, and that should be the point of inquiry. The court did not buy this argument saying that it is present level of functioning, not the past. This cases raises the interesting issue/problem of variability across states on the "time of MR/ID".  Many states specify the person must be ID/MR now and before the end of the developmental period (before age 18).  Other states add the additional criteria that the person must have been ID at the time of the crime.  And at least one state (Arkansas I believe) specifies only ID at time of the crime.  The Atkins can of worms just keeps growing.

McDade v US (Al, 2010).  This is a federal criminal case involving sex crimes and is an example of  the proposition that Atkins might being extended beyond death penalty cases.  McDade is ID/MR. Under federal criminal law, if convicted, the sentencing judge must consider the sentence which is recommended under the "sentencing guidelines" (which uses various factors to come up with a range of what is thought to be  an appropriate sentence), and the judge is supposed to articulate supporting facts if he/she wants to sentence above or below the recommended range. Here ID/MR was used as a justification to depart downward from the guidelines. However, it wasn't much of a departure - guidelines recommended 292-360 mos in federal prison; judge sentenced McDade to 240 mos - 20 years. Reading the case one gets the feeling that McDade was a follower and this may be illustrative of the concept of gullibility.

Robinson v Schriro (Az, 2010).  Not an Atkins case per se. Of interest was the appeals court's conclusion that Robinson was denied effective assistance of counsel. Robinson's attorney presented no witnesses at sentencing and appeared to only attack the state's effort to show aggravating factors. Court based its decision, in large part, on the failure to present evidence of Robinson's low IQ, which was reported as being a FSIQ of 81.  The state post-conviction judge (who heard the ineffective assistance claim in state court) was unimpressed with the IQ score, and relied instead on the so-called "street smarts" of Robinson.

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