Whether the Bright-Line Cut-Off Rule and the Adversarial Expert Explanation of Adaptive Functioning Exacerbates Capital Juror Comprehension of the Intellectual Disability
51 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 17, 2018
This paper examines a sample of Capital Jury Project (CJP 1) cases with available trial transcripts in which jurors were presented with mitigating intellectual disability evidence and may have been confused by issues of proof, definitions, and extralegal factors. It tests the hypothesis that jurors’ receptivity to mitigating intellectual disability (ID) was limited by their difficulties with the adversarial mental proof and clinical definitions needed to establish it. Further the decision making may have been obscured by distractions from extralegal factors, unrelated to the evidence like premature decision-making and heuristic shortcuts, pro-death bias, and racial prejudice. It also examines whether the bright line cut-off rule, followed in some sample states prior to the Supreme Court decision in Hall v. Florida (2014), exacerbated jurors’ understanding of the disability. In Kentucky, a state with the bright line cut-off rule, at the time these cases were decided, jurors were confused about a range of IQ scores and intellectual declines during developmental years. “IQ was perhaps not above what we consider a moron? I think they were contending that he had an IQ of 70 or 76 or so, had been tested as high as the 80s I recall.” The study concludes that juror assessment of intellectual disability (ID) is variable. Some jurors view ID as a more “organic” sympathetic disorder than other mental disorders, and they seem to understand it in practical, lay terms. Yet, capital juror decision making is marred by extra-legal factors that impair consideration of the mitigating evidence.
Keywords: capital jurors, intellectual disability, death penalty
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