McKinzey, R. K. (9/20/03). Too dumb to die: Mental retardation meets the death penalty. WebPsychEmpiricist. Retrieved 9/20/03, from

In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the US Supreme Court held that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional. Before a capital charge can be brought against a defendant, a hearing must therefore be held to determine whether or not the defendant is mentally retarded. A case study is presented, wherein the issues involved are discussed. These issues include: timing of the hearing, burden of proof, definitions of retardation, data gathering, and measurements of intelligence and adaptivity.

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McKinzey, R. K. (2007, June 6). Author's update to "Too dumb to die: Mental retardation meets the death penalty". WebPsychEmpiricist. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from

Since the 2003 publication of “Too dumb to die: Mental retardation meets the death penalty” another relevant articles have become available and are reviewed. In the first update (9/20/03), the literature on the malingering formula for the WAIS-III is reviewed at more length. The second update (6/23/05) reviews a book on the diagnosis of MR, and summarizes two CA court opinions regarding Atkins. Specific issues include the SEm, part score, Flynn Effect, and adaptive behavior arguments. The third update (8/10/05) notes that a jury found Atkins not MR. The fourth update (9/8/05) corrects some false positive figures on page 2. The fifth update (9/16/06) notes that the VA Supreme Court has reversed the jury finding and ordered yet another jury hearing. The sixth update (6/5/07) reviewed another relevant CA Supreme Court decision. This update closes the Atkins case and reviews two new studies of faking with MR populations.

Download the pdf of Author's Update

These two articles contain links to related sites:

Dr. Nelson's webpage

Dr. Samenow's webpage

Dr. Widaman's webpage

Dr. Couture's webpage

2004 & 2007 Vidal opinions

AP story about Atkins MR verdict

VA Supreme Court decision (6/8/06)

NY Times story about Atkins DP sentence being changed to LWOP