The most critical witnesses for Stanley Griffin's defense team testified Wednesday, with one of the two psychologists saying the convicted capital murderer has "mild mental retardation."
If at least one juror agrees with Dr. Mark Cunningham's assessment, Griffin cannot be sentenced to death for the September 2010 murder of Jennifer Hailey in her College Station home. Instead, he would receive life in prison without parole.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in the Atkins v. Virginia case that people with diagnosed mental retardation cannot be executed, as it would be a violation of 8th Amendment outlawing cruel and unusual punishment.
Cunningham used six IQ tests Griffin completed to show his IQ has been in the mid-60s or low-70s. The first prong of a mental retardation diagnosis under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, is an IQ below 70, or below 75 within a margin of error.
The second prong is clear deficiencies in adaptive behavior. Through interviews with Griffin, his family members, friends and employers, Cunningham says Griffin was deficient in categories like "work," "self direction," "social/interpersonal skills" and "functional academic skills."
These deficiencies and a low IQ clearly showing up before the age of 18 is the third prong. Cunningham says that's clear by his school records in Florida, where Griffin was placed in a special program.
Cunningham also testified to an analysis of Griffin as to his future danger to others if he is allowed to live. The psychologist says given his record in prison, Griffin does not appear to be a risk. Cunningham also says the likelihood of prisoners over the age of 40 committing serious violent acts is substantially lower than others.
Prosecutors are prepared to call experts to counter Cunningham's assessments.
A difficult childhood combined with a low intellectual capacity made for a "perfect storm" when it came to Griffin's adulthood, according to another psychologist who testified Wednesday for the defense.
Dr. Jolie Brams says she reviewed thousands of records and conducted interviews with friends and family members of Griffin's -- though not with Griffin himself -- in testifying to Griffin's youth and how it affected him later in life.
Brams testified that with appropriate nurturing at a young age and special training, people with an IQ like Griffin's may be able to do simple, low stress, repetitive work, but that working independently for the long term is next to impossible. But she said a childhood with limited support and physical and verbal attacks Griffin experienced did not put him in a position to be able to succeed.
Without a proper caregiver and reenforcement from them, Griffin was a prime candidate for having relationship issues.
Under cross examination, Brams says her interviews seemed to show Griffin did know right from wrong and is aware he's responsible for choices he makes. She also said Griffin could control impulses, but in more serious relationships he's been in, it becomes harder than with casual instances.
The state tried to refute that by bringing up that Griffin did not have a serious relationship with Hailey or with Jodie Piacente, who he attacked in her home in 1990. He served 12 years in prison for that crime.
Brams did not agree with the state's assertion that "character, no circumstance, makes a man."
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