Tennessee Supreme Court Says Expert Testimony Needed When Determining IQ
Besides an IQ test score, testimony from mental health experts should be considered when determining if a prisoner is intellectually disabled, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today.
The decision, according to the Memphis Daily News, deals with the appeal of Michael Angelo Coleman, who is on the state’s death row for robbing and murdering a man in 1979.
“Ascertaining a person’s IQ is not a matter within the common knowledge of laypersons. Expert testimony in some form will generally be required to assist the trial court in determining whether a criminal defendant is a person with intellectual disability,” Justice William C. Koch Jr. wrote for the Tennessee Supreme Court. The trial court isn’t required to follow an expert’s opinion, the court held, but must give the opinion “full and fair consideration.” VIA
Many states “ban the execution of people who are intellectually disabled.” meaning an IQ score of 70 or below is usually the bench mark of that determination. That 1 point difference seems extremely daunting and unreliable given the plethora of variables (personal to tester and testee, circumstantial, environmental, internal/external) that can effect it. It’s hard to believe the test (one or a battery) results were used alone without professional explanation/interpretation.
Will this complicate things? Of course. What’s worse is the alternative of what we have been doing (possibly executing people who may have mental retardation or cognitive deficiencies) with virtually no upset. I refuse to side with legal experts who say neuroscientific developments, that will eventually advance our understanding of blameworthiness, undermine the legal system and is out to destroy it. Perhaps we need to work to make it right, not easy.
If we are judging a person’s life and/punishment on a point system, the least that can be done is to get priorities in order.