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Psychologist Who Cleared Death Row Inmates Is Reprimanded

Title capital punishment

“A psychologist who examined 14 inmates who are now on Texas’ Death Row — and two others who were subsequently executed — and found them intellectually competent enough to face the death penalty, agreed on Thursday never to perform such evaluations again. Lawyers for the 14 inmates hope the agreement will help their clients, who they argue are mentally handicapped, to escape lethal injection.

As part of a settlement, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists issued a reprimand against Dr. George Denkowski, whose testing methods have been sharply criticized by other psychologists and defense lawyers as unscientific. Dr. Denkowski agreed not to conduct intellectual disability evaluations in future criminal cases and to pay a fine of $5,500. In return, the board dismissed the complaints against him.

Texas defense lawyers and forensic psychologists across the nation have watched the case closely. Although Dr. Denkowski admitted no wrongdoing and defends his practice, those critical of his methods said the settlement could give those inmates still on death row an important appellate opportunity.

“It really suggests that he screwed up,” said Dick Burr, a lawyer who represents Steven Butler, a death row inmate, and who filed one of the complaints against Dr. Denkowski.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that states cannot execute mentally handicapped people. But the court did not provide guidelines for determining whether a person is mentally handicapped, leaving it up to the states to create criteria.” (via NYTimes.com)

As far as I am concerned, his reprimand should not be a matter of whether his methodology met standards or not. A “caregiver” is inherently ethically compromised when acting in the service of the taking of a life.