Monday, August 30, 2010

Court Decision: More on Mathis v Thaler (2005, 207, 2010, TX)

This is a follow-up to that quick FYI post I made Friday where I had received a note re: the denial of a federal habeas petition in an Atkin's related case (Mathis v Thaler, 2005, 2007).  Thanks to Kevin Foley, a fountain of legal knowledge and regular ICDP guest blogger, I now have a little more information regarding this case.

Clearly this decision demonstrates that perfecting and pursuing a federal habeas corpus claim is complicated.  As I now understand matters, The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals previously had addressed Mathis' claim of MR/ID, but not in an Atkins context in  2005. At that time the court stated:
The evidence presented to the state trial court showed Mathis to have a low range of intelligence but all above the threshold for mental retardation. Specifically, the expert’s report indicated that Mathis’ full scale I.Q. was 79, his verbal I.Q. was 77 and his performance I.Q. was 85. Testing performed by a psychologist for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after his conviction reflect different results. Those results show Mathis to have a full scale I.Q. of 62, verbal I.Q. of 65 and a performance I.Q. of 60. The district court held that Mathis failed to present evidence that reasonable counsel, at the time of trial, would have investigated his possible mental retardation further.

One may suspect the reasoning involved and greater insight requires examining the specifics of the intellectual testing history of Mathis.  According to the habeas corpus petition (p. 8-9)  Mathis' IQ of 79 was obtained on the WISC-R in 1991--- if a Flynn Effect "adjustment" had been invoked, the score should be approximately 70. it possible that the appeals court, which already dismissed the MR/ID claim in 2005 simply did not want to address it again?

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  1. I don' think that whether Mr. Mathis was a person with ID was all that germane to the holding. The Court simply reviewed the course of the litigation and ruled that he had not filed his claim within the one year statute of limitations, in this case one year after Atkins was decided. It's a tragic and rough case, especially since the TDCJ psychologist determined Mathis was in the ID range (which almost never happens).

  2. Except that a 17 point drop in IQ is not plausible, and likely reflects malingering in the 2nd evaluation.