"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
From Whatever It Is, I'm Against It:
Speaking of lawyers with retarded clients, a jury is being empaneled in Virginia solely to decide whether a man already convicted of murder is mentally retarded or not; if the latter, he will be executed. And while I know it’s a civic duty and all that, let’s face it, we’re all thinking the same thing: a man’s IQ will be determined by a group of people who couldn’t get out of jury duty. The man’s tested IQ has risen from 59 to somewhere in the 70’s, above what counts as retarded in Virginia, an increase which is attributed to the mental stimulation he received by working with his lawyers on his case, mental stimulation entirely lacking from his life previously. Sometimes irony gets you executed. To ensure that the trial not be fair, the judge has ruled that the jury may hear the details of the murder, which are of course entirely irrelevant to determining whether he is retarded.
Obviously, I am not familiar with the record in the case, so there may be more to this last tidbit than meets the eye, but on its face the judge's ruling appears to be an outrage. It is less, outrageous, however, than this detail from the article cited in the above excerpt:
Atkins’s case is not clear cut. A key prosecution argument will be that he has never been retarded. Under Virginia law, mental retardation must be determined before the age of 18. Atkins’s IQ was never tested until he passed the age of 18.
If the persecutor's argument is nontrivial, then it seems as though the upcoming hearing is a charade - it does not matter whether a jury finds Atkins "retarded" (an offensive word, about as appropriate as "colored") if the determination had to have been made before the age of 18. The hell of it is that this argument just might accurately reflect the applicable law.