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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/3519

Title: Judicial understanding of intellectual disability and correlates of judicial decision-making in Atkins claims
Authors: Hensl, Kursten Brooke
Keywords: Clinical psychology;Developmental disabilities--Psychological aspects;Judicial process
Issue Date: 11-Jul-2011
Abstract: In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the Supreme Court found persons with mental retardation (MR), or intellectual disability (ID), exempt from capital punishment. Since the decision, ID assessment practices and outcomes have varied significantly across cases, and little is known about how judges decide Atkins claims. Using a case vignette survey, this was the first study to sample federal and state judges to examine the relationship between defendant’s ID history, ID assessment practices, and judicial decisions in Atkins claims. This study also evaluated the relationship between judges’ understanding of ID, demographic characteristics, attitudes about mental illness and the death penalty, and ID decisions. Results indicated that severity of ID and history of ID significantly predicted judicial ID decisions, but testimony about a defendant’s prison behavior and role in the alleged capital offense did not. Judicial understanding of ID did not significantly predict ID decisions. Judges’ race and current jurisdiction were significantly related to ID decisions. Only one attitudinal variable, opinion about the culpability of intellectually disabled offenders, was related to judges’ decisions. Certain variables were significantly related to judges’ commitment to their ID decisions. Results suggest certain factors may significantly influence judicial decision-making in Atkins claims, but remind us that much remains unknown about how judges make these decisions and which evidence or assessment practices are most effective in this context. These findings may help explain judicial decisions in actual cases, highlight areas for judicial education and training, and suggest new ways to improve expert testimony and legal strategy.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/3519
Appears in Collections:Drexel Theses and Dissertations

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