It is unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded prisoners in the United States. The state of Texas, however, appears to have found a loophole, according to a published report. In the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling on Atkins v. Virginia, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "Because of their disabilities in areas of reasoning, judgment, and control of their impulses ... [the mentally retarded] do not act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct." Because of this, the justices found it "cruel and unusual" to put the metally deficient to death, leaving it to the states to establish a framework by which such individuals could be identified in capital cases. Psychologist George Denkowski, an expert witness oft-used by Texas prosecutors, has been utilizing "junk science" to elevate the intelligence evaluation scores of mentally deficient death row prisoners, according to a new report in The Texas Observer.
However, Texas Governor Rick Perry rejected a bill that would have established rules to determine who is mentally retarded. Left grasping, courts invented their own criteria, turning to psychologists for the complicated evaluations. Having played a key part in two-thirds of the state's Atkins appeals, Dr. George Denkowski has built a lucrative practice off ensuring the mentally retarded are executed, his critics say. Denkowski's reputation for declaring prisoners fit to die has earned him "almost Dr. Death status," attorney Robert Morrow told reporter Reneé Feltz.
Since complaints were lodged against Denkowski, the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists has found that at least three of his cases were littered with scoring errors. Now Denkowski is facing a review by the state licensing board on Feb. 16, when his career as a psychologist could end. Already, three of the Atkins appeals he testified on have been placed on hold pending the outcome of the hearing. Denkowski evaluated 29 men in total; some have already been executed.
James: No surprise it's in Texas. They should change their name from "The Lone Star State" to "The Death State." There is absolutely no reason why we should be executing mentally retarded people. In my view that is no different than executing a young child who accidentally killed their parents. The mentally retarded don't know what they did was wrong, so put them on medications and monitor them in a mental institution. The world isn't black and white but has many shades of gray and mentally retarded criminals fit into one of those shades of gray. So, being able to keep society safe doesn't necessarily mean we have to resort to killing these mentally retarded prisoners. We have in America, a "death cult" and it seems to be centered in Texas. We are a war-like people who also kill people (via the death penalty) to show other people that killing is wrong. Now, does that sound like a logical thing to do? I'm starting to wonder who the real mentally retarded ones are, the prisoners or the citizens?