There’s a story that’s brewing in Texas which is growing in national prominence — just this week, the Huffington Post published an excerpt from an article entitled "Cracked" from the Texas Observer, an exposé revealing that the state of Texas is continuing to execute mentally retarded individuals despite the constitutional prohibition against doing so. (Grits for Breakfast also helped to spread the word this past weekend.)
Written by Renée Feltz, the Observer’s expose throws the doors open on Texas’ Death Row to reveal that seventeen (17) men have had their IQ scores bumped up to levels that allow them to suffer the penalty of death under state and federal law. Apparently, forensic psychologist Dr. George Denkowski has used several tools of "junk science" to improperly alter the intelligence scores of these convicted men and according to Feltz’s investigation, Dr. Dankowski has done this intentionally.
In a disgraceful disregard of the spirit and intent of Atkins v. Virginia, Dr. Dankowski has testified in 29 death cases since 2002 (at a rate of $250 per hour), providing expert testimony for the prosecution in over two-thirds of the capital cases appealed in Texas from 2002 forward. Now, a federal judge has ruled that Dr. Dankowski has skewed intelligence testing results, and all his findings "must be disregarded due to fatal errors."
According to Atkins, it is unconstitutional to execute someone who scores 70 or less on a standard IQ test and demonstrates "deficits in adaptive behavior" before the age of 18 years. Texas law adds a seven question test in the determination of mental retardation as an attempt to make the label less subjective ("the Briseño standard”).
Where’s the National Media on this Story? Bloggers are taking the lead here.…
Interesting that this story is slow to gain coverage in the national media, with bloggers like those at the Huffington Post and Grits for Breakfast leading in the current search results for this story.
One wonders when the national news media will take the lead on this important and evolving revelation of injustice – and thank God for the tenacity of reporter Renee Feltz and those at the Texas Observer for their efforts to get this message out to the public.
What about Michael Richard and Chief Justice Sharon Keller?
Another thought to ponder: what does this mean for Texas’ Chief Justice Sharon Keller, if anything? She awaits the fact findings from her trial this past August (Judge Berchelmann has not issued anything as yet), and Dr. Dankowski was the expert who provided the requisite testimony in the Michael Richard case, allowing Mr. Richard to be executed that fateful afternoon when Justice Keller was too busy to hear his motion for stay (“the clerk’s office closes at five.”)
More on this story as it unfolds ….