Monday, June 11, 2007

Death Penalty and Mental Retardation

The Supreme Court banned the death penalty for convicted murderers in Atkins v Virginia.

1) Atkins spent so much time with lawyers, his intelligence performance improved. IQ changes with education. Atkins now qualifies for the death penalty, based on his IQ test performance.

2) The Court used an obsolete definition of mental retardation, a test score. Overall function now defines MR, with greater reliability. Thus someone running a successful drug dealing business in a rough area since childhood likely has superior social and business skills. I would like to see the Justices survive that environment.

3) The Court had refused to grant a writ of certiorari to a California appellate decision banning the use of IQ tests to qualify minority students for special education help, to help. Yet it permits the use of IQ in the death penalty, to punish.

4) All behavior is brain based. It is not the fault of a professional pitcher that he can throw a ball at 95 mph. Perhaps, he should not get the consequence of a lucrative contract. Brain function problems are irrelevant to qualification for consequences of behavior, whether positive or negative. Clearer, more intense consequences help those who have trouble learning from experience.

This case may have inspired a new approach to remediation for slow learners. It should be researched in a systematic way. Send half a sample of students with MR to special education class, the other half to intern in lawyers' offices. See which group performs best on retesting a year later.

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