Sasser v. Hobbs
ORDER directing the clerk to amend the docket sheet to reflect Ray Hobbs as Director of the Arkansas Department of Correction; after conducting an evidentiary hearing on Sasser's mental retardation claim, finding that he is not mentally retarded as that condition is defined in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) and that Sasser's Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, ECF No. 48, should be, and hereby is, DENIED. ***Civil Case Terminated. Signed by Honorable Jimm Larry Hendren on November 3, 2010. (cap)
Sasser v. Hobbs
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS TEXARKANA DIVISION
CIVIL NO.: 4:00-cv-04036-JLH
RAY HOBBS, Director, Arkansas Department of Corrections1 ORDER
Petitioner Andrew Sasser ("Sasser"), sentenced to death for murder and confined at the Maximum Security Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"), seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Pet., ECF No. 48. After
careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, Sasser's remaining claim, that he is mentally retarded and thus ineligible for the death penalty, will be dismissed with prejudice. I. Procedural History A. Summary of Petitioner's Criminal Trial
On May 4, 1994, a jury convicted Sasser of capital murder and sentenced him to death for the homicide of Jo Ann Kennedy. Sasser v. State, 902 S.W.2d 773 (Ark. 1995). See
Respondent Ray Hobbs was officially named the Director of the A r k a n s a s Department of Correction on June 26, 2010, terminating his position a s "interim director." The Clerk of the Court is directed to amend the docket s h e e t accordingly.
At the jury trial, Sasser's guilty plea was not accepted by the trial court due to the state's refusal to waive the death penalty. Id. at 775. Sasser stipulated that he caused the death
of the victim while in the possession of and while driving his brother's pickup truck. Id. Other stipulated facts included:
Sasser stopped at the E-Z Mart in Garland City two or three times to buy chips and to use the telephone between the hours of 3:00 p.m. on July 11, 1993 and approximately 12:00 a.m. on July 12, 1993; the victim was discovered nude from the waist down; and the pants and panties found in the E-Z Mart's men's bathroom were hers. Id. The State's first witness at trial, Jeanice Pree, testified she and her mother, Gloria Jean Williams, lived across the street from the Garland City E-Z Mart. unobstructed view of the store. Id. Pree testified she had an Sasser, 902 S.W. 2d at 775. Pree
testified she also worked at the E-Z Mart and believed its front door was locked at 12:00 midnight and thereafter customers were required to use a drive-through window. Id. Pree testified she
was sitting on her couch watching television when she looked out her window, saw the victim and a man behind the store counter and assumed he was a friend of the victim. Id. Pree testified she
looked back and saw the victim and the man coming to the store's front door. Id. Pree testified she could tell the victim was being
forced to come out because it looked like her hands were behind her -2-
Id. Pree testified she telephoned 911.
Sasser, 902 S.W.2d
at 775. The police dispatcher testified he received Pree's 911 telephone call at approximately 12:46 a.m. on July 12, 1993, and that she stated "there was a woman that she believed was being killed at the E-Z Mart, being drug through the window." Id.
Gloria Jean Williams testified she watched the E-Z Mart from the window in her house while her daughter (Pree) telephoned 911. Id. Williams testified she saw a truck leave the store, and then She reached
the victim "came around from the side of the E-Z Mart. for the door and she just collapsed, right there." Id.
Miller County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Nicholas testified the victim was found lying just outside the E-Z Mart door on the sidewalk, and appeared to be dead. Sasser, 902 S.w.2d at 775.
Nicholas testified the victim was nude from the waist down, and what appeared to be her panties and pants were located in the men's restroom of the store. Id. Nicholas testified one of the victim's
shoes was in the front aisle and one behind the counter, and a large wad of hair was found behind the cash register near the drive-through window. Id. Nicholas testified blood spatters were
observed at the drive-through window, on the store's "outside aisles," counter, and on the men's bathroom wall. Id. at 775-76.
Nicholas testified the drive-through window was open. Id. at 776. Numerous items of physical evidence and photographs were introduced into evidence through the testimony of Nicholas and -3-
Department of the
register area showing two plastic containers of nachos. 902 S.W.2d at 776.
Arkansas State Police Investigator Robert Neal testified he and Miller County Sheriff H.L. Phillips interrogated Sasser at the Lafayette County Sheriff's Office in Lewisville for approximately two hours beginning around 7:45 p.m., on July 12, 1993. Id.
Sasser's tape recorded statement and a transcript of the same were introduced at trial and provided as follows. Id. Sasser stated he
drove up to the window at the Garland City E-Z Mart and ordered nachos from the victim. Id. He described the victim as a "lady
... [who] had an attitude" and was angry because someone else had ordered nachos, then failed to pick up the order. Id. Sasser
stated the victim tried to sell him two orders of nachos, but he declined. Sasser, 902 S.W.2d at 776. He stated they argued and Id.
the victim slammed the drive-through window on his hand.
Sasser stated he jerked the window open whereupon the victim cut him with an knife-like object with a blade. Id. Sasser stated he
grabbed the victim and she jerked him through the drive-through window. Id. He stated they scuffled, moving from the
drive-through window area, down the counter area, out into the store's interior, back to the store office at the rear of the store, and up to the potato chip rack at the front of the store. -4-
Sasser stated the victim opened the store's front door, they
exited the store and the victim followed him to his pickup truck, still fighting. Id. Sasser stated he entered the vehicle and
left. Sasser, 902 S.W.2d at 776. Sasser stated he did not recall going into the E-Z Mart's restrooms but that he "had to go back there." Id. He stated the Id.
victim repeatedly hit him with her fists while they scuffled.
Sasser stated he wrested the victim's knife-like object from her and used it to hit her, finally dropping the object near the pickup truck. Id. Sasser stated he did not know why the victim's clothes Id. When asked whether he did not remove the
victim's clothes or did not remember doing so, he replied: "No sir." Sasser, 902 S.W.2d at 776. rape the victim or to rob her. The State's final Sasser stated he did not try to Id. Ms. Carter, testified Sasser
attacked and raped her on April 22, 1988 at the E-Z Mart Store in Lewisville. Id. Carter testified she was the only employee on
duty when Sasser entered the store at approximately 1:00 a.m. and purchased cigarettes, returned fifteen minutes later and purchased a soft drink, then returned five minutes later, asked to use the telephone and stated he had a wreck on his motorcycle. Id. Carter
testified Sasser then stood in the store after stating he was waiting on his wife to pick him up. Id. Carter testified that, at
approximately 1:35 a.m., a truck drove up and appellant went -5-
outside to talk to its occupants.
Sasser, 902 S.W.2d at 776.
Carter testified she moved from behind the cash register and began putting up items in the freezer when Sasser approached her from behind and hit her on the back of the head with a soft-drink bottle. Id. Carter testified she and Sasser struggled and he
continued to hit her, then forced her to a utility/bathroom located at the back of the store. Id. Carter testified another man Id.
approached and Sasser decided to take her out of the store.
Carter testified Sasser forced her out of the store, picked up his bicycle, and pushed Carter and the bicycle into an alley. Carter testified that, when the other man drove by, Sasser forced her across the street, told her to pull down her clothes, pulled down his own clothes, and raped her. Id. Carter testified Sasser then
told her he should not have done it and should kill her, whereupon she begged him not to and agreed to say a truck had dropped her off and Sasser had found her. Carter testified Sasser forced her back to the store where the police were waiting. 776. Sasser, 902 S.W.2d at
Carter testified that, when she gained the opportunity to
speak privately to a policeman, she identified Sasser as her attacker. Id.
The state then rested and the defense presented no evidence. Id. The jury returned a verdict of guilty; the verdict did not
identify the predicate offense or offenses the jury found as a required element of the crime of capital felony murder. -6Id. at
776-77. The state then introduced, for the jury's consideration in the sentencing phase, a certified copy of Sasser's 1988 convictions for Carter's second degree battery, kidnapping and rape. Id. 777. at
The jury found one aggravating circumstance: that Sasser had
previously committed another felony an element of which was the use or threat of violence to another person or creating a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. Sasser, 902 S.W.2d at 777. The jury found three mitigating
circumstances: that Sasser would be a productive inmate, had a supporting family of him as an inmate, and had stipulated he caused the victim's death. Id. The jury found the aggravating
circumstance outweighed any mitigating circumstances and justified the death sentence. B. Id.
State Court Appeal of Conviction
Sasser appealed his conviction to the Arkansas Supreme Court, raising one issue - whether the trial court abused its discretion when it permitted the state to introduce "prior acts" testimony in violation of Arkansas Rules of Evidence 404(b) and 403. Id. The
Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed Sasser's conviction and sentence on July 17, 1995. C. Id.
State Post-conviction Relief
Subsequently, Sasser sought post-conviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure 37. After conducting an
evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied Sasser's Rule 37 -7-
petition, in September 1997. On July 8, 1999, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's denial of post-conviction relief. See Sasser v. State, 993 S.W.2d 901 (1999). D. Federal Relief - Writ of Habeas Corpus
On July 7, 2000, Sasser petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Pet., ECF No. 3. Throughout several pleadings,
Sasser presented eight (8) claims upon which he requested relief. At that point, Sasser had not raised a mental retardation claim. On May 23, 2002, this Court denied Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Order, ECF No. 30. This Court issued a
Certificate of Appealability for five (5) of Sasser's claims, on August 15, 2002. Certif. Appeal, ECF No. 34.
While on appeal at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (Eighth Circuit Court), Sasser raised, for the first time, the claim of mental retardation as a bar against his
On August 21, 2003, the Eighth Circuit Court entered a
judgment, remanding the mental retardation issue to this Court, and granted the motion to file a successive petition. 37. J., ECF. No.
On August 29, 2003, this Court entered a Scheduling Order,
stating that this Court was to determine whether Sasser is mentally retarded and whether his execution in prohibited. Sch. Order, ECF No. 40. This Court also stated that the appropriate standard for Id.
"mental retardation" is contained in ARK. CODE ANN. § 5-4-618.
Then, on March 9, 2004, the Eighth Circuit Court entered an Amended Judgement, revising the previously entered order and
remanded the case to this Court for a determination of whether the mental retardation claim had been exhausted. Am. J., ECF No. 44.
If this Court were to conclude that Sasser had a viable state court remedy, the Eighth Circuit Court went on to "invite" this Court to determine whether "truly exceptional circumstances" involving "a consideration going beyond the running of the statute of
See id. (citation omitted).
On September 3, 2004, Sasser filed a Second Supplemental and Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Relief (the Petition). Pet., ECF No. 48. Sasser raised the mental retardation claim,
alleging that Sasser's sentence to death by lethal injection violates the 8th and 14th Amendments. Sasser also raised an
ineffective assistance of counsel claim; a claim that Sasser's statement to police was taken in violation of the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments, as it was involuntary in part due to Sasser's mental retardation; and that Sasser was incompetent during the trial and post-trial proceedings, and his Id. counsel provided
ineffective assistance on these matters.
On November 5, 2004, Respondent filed a response. Resp., ECF No. 49. 56. Sasser filed a reply on February 3, 2005. Reply, ECF No.
Additionally, on April 4, 2005, Sasser filed two affidavits
from two licenced social workers as exhibits to the Petition. Ex.
1, ECF No. 58. On June 14, 2006, this Court entered a Scheduling Order, Sch. Order, ECF No. 65, requiring any motions regarding "additional information Petitioner would like the Court to consider in relation to his mental retardation claim" be filed on or before August 31, 2006. Id.
Sasser failed to file any motions regarding the introduction of additional information to support the mental retardation claim. Thus, on January 9, 2007, this Court entered an Order, Order, ECF No. 71, denying the Second Supplemental and Amended Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus Relief in its entirety on the grounds that Sasser's mental retardation claim was procedurally defaulted
because he did not raise the issue in state court under state law. See also J., ECF No. 72. Sasser then filed a Motion to Alter Judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e), Mot. ECF No. 80. 73, which was denied on April
Order, ECF No.
A Motion for Certificate of Appealability was filed, Certif. Appeal, ECF No. 82, and the Certificate was granted in part and denied in part. Order, ECF No. 84. The Certificate was denied
regarding any claims outside the alleged mental retardation, as the remand from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals was limited to issues involving the mental retardation claim. J., ECF No. 44. The Certificate was Id., see also Am. granted regarding
Petitioner's claims he should not be subject to a sentence of death due to mental retardation, and Petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Order, ECF No. 84.
After a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court was denied on October 29, 2009, Pet., ECF No. 90,
this case was again remanded back to the district court on November 3, 2009 from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. 91. Mandate, ECF No.
The Eighth Circuit remanded "to the district court for an
Atkins evidentiary hearing to adjudicate the merits of Sasser's mental retardation claim." Id. at 11.
The Eighth Circuit disagreed with the procedural default analysis applied by this Court, because under the precedent of Simpson v. Norris, 490 F.3d 1029 (8th Cir. 2007), the ability of
a petitioner to raise a similar state-statute mental retardation claim and failing to do so will not default 91. an Atkins
Mandate 8, ECF No.
had "alleged that he is mentally retarded as Atkins defines that condition," and was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on that claim. Id. at 8-9.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with this Court's reasoning that the ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not properly before it, and stated the review of the district court was limited to one issue, with prohibition from consideration of any other issue. Id. at 9-10. Additionally, the Eighth
Circuit stated that while a statute of limitations argument could be made regarding the mental retardation claim, the government had forfeited that defense by raising it for the first time on appeal, and the Eighth Circuit "will not address the defense any further." Id. at 11. Pursuant to the Opinion and Mandate of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, this Court held an evidentiary hearing regarding Sasser's claim of mental retardation for two days on June 15 and 16, 2010. See Mins., ECF Nos. 153, 154 and Tr., ECF No. 157.
Respondent filed his post hearing brief on July 16, 2010, Hr'g Br., ECF No. date. 2010. II. 158, and Sasser filed his post hearing brief on the same 159. Rely briefs were filed on July 30,
Hr'g Br., ECF No.
Reply Br., ECF Nos. 161, 162. Applicable Law
In 1988, the United States Supreme Court held that there was not then a national consensus to bar the execution of those who were mentally retarded. Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302
(1989)(abrogated by, Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304(2002)). However, when the high court again reached the question in 2002, it held that a national consensus had emerged, in the thirteen years since Penry, against the execution of mentally retarded offenders. Atkins v. In Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). while only two states barred the execution of
mentally retarded persons at the time the Court decided Penry, -12-
thirty states barred the practice at the time Atkins was decided in 2002. See Penry, 492 U.S. at 334; Atkins, 536 U.S. at 314; see Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 592 (2005) (O'Connor, J., Arkansas was one of the states mentioned by the
also Roper v. dissenting).
Supreme Court to have passed legislation against executions of mentally retarded persons during the thirteen-year gap. Atkins,
536 U.S. at 314 (enumerating state statutes enacted between 1989 and 2001 exempting the mentally retarded from the death penalty.). The Court in Atkins went on to hold that the Eighth Amendment "`places a substantive restriction on the state's power to take the life' of a mentally retarded offender." v. Id. at 321, quoting Ford The Court further
Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 405 (1986).
implicitly rejected the suggestion in Penry that the death penalty could not be barred if any mentally retarded person might
theoretically deserve it, so that the effect of mental retardation should instead simply be considered as a mitigating factor. Id. at 318-19. retarded Rather, it said, the very fact that persons are mentally not only makes them more likely to give a false
confession, but also makes them less able to assist their counsel, typically makes them poor witnesses, and may cause them to exhibit a demeanor that is unsympathetic and that may incorrectly imply a lack of remorse. Id. at 320-21. The Court concluded that "death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal." Id. at 321. -13-
definition of mental retardation, leaving that to the states. Atkins, 536 U.S. at 317. However, the Supreme Court did cite two
clinical definitions formulated by psychological associations, that of the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR) and the American Psychiatric Association. Id. at 309, n.3. Using the 1992 edition of the AAMR's definition, the Court presented mental retardation as substantial limitations in present functioning . . . characterized by significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with related limitations in two or more of the following applicable adaptive skill areas: communication, selfcare, home living, social skills, community use, selfdirection, health and safety, functional academics, leisure, and work. Mental retardation manifests before age 18. at 318. These three elements -- subaverage intellectual functioning, limitations in adaptive skills and manifestation before age 18 -- also appear in the 2000 edition of the American Psychiatric
Association's definition, which states: [t]he essential feature of Mental Retardation is significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning (Criterion A) that is accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following skill areas: communication, selfcare, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, selfdirection, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and safety (Criterion B). The onset must occur before age 18 years (Criterion C)." Id. The court explained that this definition added a quantitative measure, stating that "Mild' mental retardation is typically used to describe people with an IQ level of 5055 to approximately 70.
The Atkins Court noted that state statutory definitions of
mental retardation generally conform to these clinical definitions. Id. Consistent with the language of the Supreme Court in Atkins, which found "we leave to the State[s] the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon [their] execution of sentences," Atkins, 536 U.S. at 318 (quoting Ford, 477 U.S. at 405, 416-17), Arkansas in Anderson v. S.W.3d 333 (Ark. State, 163
2004), held that the Supreme Court's decision in
Atkins was "merely reaffirming the States' preexisting prohibition against executing the mentally retarded." 354-55. Anderson, 163 S.W.3d at
Section 5-4-618(a)(2) of the Arkansas Code Annotated,
which is part of Act 420 of 1993, provides that no defendant with mental retardation at the time of committing capital murder shall be sentenced to death.2 Arkansas Code Annotated Section 5-4-618 states in relevant part:
Sasser did not claim mental retardation in any state court p r o c e e d i n g . As noted above in the background, supra, the Eighth Circuit s t a t e d this was not a procedural default of Sasser's Atkins claim, because A t k i n s was a new constitutional claim, despite the identical right conferred b y state-statute. Further, the Eighth Circuit made it clear in Simpson v. Norris, 490 F.3d 1029 (8th Cir. 2007), that there was no requirement to r e m a n d to the Arkansas Supreme Court to determine mental retardation, because t h e Arkansas Court had expressly stated it would not recall a mandate a f f i r m i n g a death sentence to consider a defense arising from Atkins of any c a p i t a l defendant who failed to raise a similar defense under state law. In o t h e r words, the Arkansas Supreme Court would consider the claim to be solely a federal one. As a petitioner such as Sasser or Simpson would therefore be u n a b l e to present the claim in state court and receive a full and fair e v i d e n t i a r y hearing, such petitioners could satisfy the conditions of r e c e i v i n g an evidentiary hearing in federal court.
(a)(1) As used in this section, "mental retardation" means: (A) Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning3 accompanied by a significant deficit or impairment in adaptive functioning4 manifest in the developmental period, but no later than age eighteen (18) years of age; and (B) A deficit in adaptive behavior5. (2) There is a rebuttable presumption of mental retardation when a defendant has an intelligence quotient of sixty-five (65) or below. (b) No defendant with mental retardation at the time of committing capital murder shall be sentenced to death. (c) The defendant has the burden of proving mental retardation at the time of committing the offense by a preponderance of the evidence. ARK. CODE ANN. § 5-4-618. Neither the Federal Death Penalty Act, nor the federal
Constitution, requires government to prove, by any standard, that a capital defendant is not mentally retarded; rather, it is up to states to determine how to enforce the constitutional prohibition against executing mentally retarded persons. Webster, 421 F.3d 308 (5th Cir. the petitioner's burden to 2005). prove United States v.
Arkansas has stated it is mental retardation by a The
preponderance of the evidence.
Anderson, 163 S.W.3d at 355.
parties in this case agree this is the standard to apply and that
Intellectual functioning is defined by the intelligence quotient (IQ).
AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, DIAGNOSTIC ( 4 t h ed. 2003).
MENTAL DISORDERS 41
Adaptive functioning refers to how effectively individuals cope with c o m m o n life demands. AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL O F MENTAL DISORDERS 42 (4th ed. 2003). Adaptive behavior refers to how well a person meets the standards of p e r s o n a l independence expected of someone of their particular age group, s o c i o c u l t u r a l background, and community setting. AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC A S S O C I A T I O N , DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS 42 (4th ed. 2003).
the Arkansas statutory provision controls. III. Evidence Presented At the evidentiary hearing regarding Sasser's Atkins claim, this Court heard testimony from the following individuals in the following order: Mr. Hollis Sasser, Dr. Smith, Dr. Mr. Roger Moore, Mr. Jethro Toomer, Prof. Tom
Grant Harris, Sgt. Kevin McGrew.
John Cartwright, Along with the
Bryan Olinger, and Dr.
testimony of witnesses, Sasser submitted exhibits numbered 1 -4, which consisted of the following: Petitioner's Exhibit 1: Report of Jethro Toomer, consisting of three volumes; Petitioner's Exhibit 2: Curriculum Vitae and report of Prof. Tom Smith; Petitioner's Exhibit 3: Report of Dr. McGrew and Appendix,
consisting of five volumes. Respondent submitted exhibits numbered 1-3, which consisted of the following: Respondent's Exhibit 1: Report, Raw Data, and Materials of Dr. Roger Moore, consisting of
seven volumes; Respondent's Exhibit 2: D i a g r a m s h o w i n g correspondence between Sasser's test results and the normal distribution curve; Respondent's Exhibit 3: Arkansas Department of Finance and
Administration Driver Permit/License Record for Sasser. All of the exhibits presented by the parties have been throughly reviewed by the Court and will be summarized as appropriate to the discussion, section IV, infra. The following is a summary of the evidence, which bears upon Sasser's cognitive and behavioral development and capacities,
presented via witnesses at the Atkins hearing. · Hollis Sasser ("H.B.") is a brother of Petitioner Sasser. When Sasser was two or three years of age, Sasser and H.B.'s father passed away after an on-the-job accident at a
The family, including Sasser, then moved
to an area referred to as "Boyd Hill" where several family members also lived. · Sasser socialized with other children his age, and children older and younger than him when living at Boyd Hill. · Sasser was given chores to do, including feeding chickens by himself and gathering firewood with the family. · Sasser would also fish with his family, using simple fishing equipment such as a pole and worm, but not fishing lures and tackle. · Sasser would also clean the fish.
During high school, Sasser had a job with the Crank family. Sasser would help with farm duties in chicken houses and assisted with hay baling in the summer months. Sasser was
specifically responsible for removal of dead chickens from the houses, cleaning out water troughs, and feeding chickens. Once the chickens were old enough for removal of the initial water troughs, Sasser would take out the troughs and wash them. · · All of Sasser's employment was in manual labor jobs. When Sasser was about eighteen years of age, he attempted to take a pay check he had been given by Mr. Crank, Sasser's
employer, and alter the check to receive additional funds. The attempt at altering the check was "messy" and "quite obvious," according to H.B., who saw the check. When Sasser
attempted to pass the check at a local store, the clerk knew the check had been altered and also personally knew Mr. Crank and Sasser and did not honor the check. · Sasser did not date much when he was a teenager and a young adult. He never brought a girl home to introduce to the
family and H.B. never saw him go out on a date or attempt to "flirt with a girl." · Sasser continued to live with his mother while H.B. and the other siblings moved out of the family home. · Sasser received a certificate of attendance for high school, but no actual diploma. H.B. was surprised to learn Sasser did not actually graduate high school. · Sasser told everyone he was going to go into military service,
specifically the Army, but instead lived in an abandoned home 100 yards away from H.B.'s house at night and in the daytime would stay out of sight of everybody by hiding in a wooded area. Sasser would go approximately five to six hundred yards "up a hill" and hide during the daylight hours. On times
Sasser knew the family would be away, such as Sunday church hours, Sasser would take canned goods from H.B.'s house for food. At the times when Sasser would get food from H.B.'s
house, Sasser would also call his grandparents to keep up the ruse that he was in boot camp. The house where Sasser stayed
at night had no running water or electricity, but it did have some furniture. To heat food, Sasser would make a campfire.
The duration of Sasser's stay at the home was approximately three weeks. · As a teenager, Sasser had a job babysitting for H.B's four children during the day while H.B. and his wife went to work. The children's ages ranged from one to nine years old. Sasser did not babysit overnight, nor did he ever cook for the children. Additionally, Sasser's mother was next door for
extra supervision. · As a young man, Sasser found himself out of work and needing a job. H.B. assisted Sasser in securing a common labor job Sasser's job was putting together
with Young Construction.
20-foot joints of plastic pipe to lay sewer lines for the
Sasser would apply an "ointment" type substance to the
inside of the pipe, and then push the pipe to make certain the joints were placed together securely. The pipe had to go in
far enough to reach a certain point and it had to be straight for welding. This job was supervised. Sasser rode back and
forth from this job with H.B. · H.B. also assisted Sasser in securing a job at a lumber mill after Sasser returned home following a period of
incarceration. lumber mill.
H.B. also transported Sasser to and from the While working at the lumber mill, Sasser found
an old truck he wanted to buy, so H.B. helped Sasser purchase the truck. Sasser did not have any credit established so H.B. spoke with the loan officer and got a personal loan for Sasser. Sasser just had to sign the paperwork. H.B. did give
the payment book to Sasser and it was Sasser's responsibility to make the payments on the loan. Prior to this, Sasser had
done no banking, had no checking account, and no savings account. · Sasser lived with his mother except for the time he was incarcerated. There was also short period of time when Sasser lived with Arch and Margie, his other siblings, due to
employment at the Hudson chicken plant in Hope, Arkansas. Other siblings came back to the family home for short periods of time, but Sasser stayed there much longer.
H.B. did not notice any significant developmental issues with Sasser as they were growing up.
Dr. Jethro Toomer, a clinical and forensic psychologist, gave Sasser the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, fourth edition ("WAIS-4") to assess Sasser's intellectual functioning. Dr.
Toomer began the vocabulary sub-test at question five, due to Sasser's age, and gave Sasser credit for getting the first four questions correct, although those questions were not asked. · Sasser received one point on question number 11 of the
vocabulary sub-test. The score of one reflects an answer that is generally correct, but is characterized by what is called the poverty of content, which means the answer is vague and questionable if the person really understands. · Some of the vocabulary sub-test questions are marked "DK" which indicates that Sasser simply did not know the answer and he could not provide any particular response to that
particular item. · On question 23 of the vocabulary sub-test, Sasser provided the response "different things" to the prompt of "diverse." According to the scoring guide, the next step is to query Sasser with his understanding of that particular term, because according to the manual, an understanding of the term diverse goes beyond just the notion of being different.
When Sasser was questioned after giving this response, he was unable to provide any further clarification or indication of understanding the particular concept. Thus, he earned a score of zero. Dr. Toomer then stopped the exam because Sasser had
given three consecutive answers which received a score of zero, and the rules require the examiner to stop after three consecutive scores of zero. The scoring manual, at page 45,
states "[i]f the examinee spontaneously gives a zero or a onepoint response that is appropriately queried but the examinee does not improve his or her response, the score retains its original value." · According to the scoring manual "different things" was a one point score, and Dr. Toomer stated the answer was only worth
one point if the examinee could properly respond to the subsequent query. · On page 30 of the administration manual for the WAIS-4, it states "[a]ll 15 sub-tests have a single start point for all ages. mental Examinee suspected of intellectual disability, i.e. retardation or general intellectual Dr. deficiencies,
should always begin with Item 1."
Toomer maintained he
was not predisposed to any particular belief that Sasser was mentally retarded, so he began with question five, and not question one. If Sasser had missed the questions beginning at question five, the instruction is to go back to be beginning
of the test and give questions one through five. · The full scale IQ score for the exam administered by Dr. Toomer was an 83. Applying a standard margin of error, the Toomer also
range of this score would be 78-88. However, Dr.
maintained there would be a rise in the score, or an inflation of the score, due to the "artificial environment" of the prison. · In This inflation was not quantifiable. Sasser was administered the Wechsler Adult
Intelligence Scale Revised ("the WAIS-R,"), which was the test in effect at that time. normed in 1980. However, that instrument had been
So, when Sasser took the exam in 1994, his
score was not compared with peers, but with the group against which it was normed fourteen years prior. The concept of norm obsolescence, which can call into question the adequacy of a particular instrument, is also called the Flynn effect. The
score on the examination can be adjusted for the Flynn effect, which results in roughly a three point inflation for every ten years. In 1994, Sasser's IQ score was 79. Taking into
account the Flynn effect, his score would be 75. The standard error of measure would be plus or minus five points. Thus,
the accurate IQ score for Sasser from the 1994 test would be the range of 70-80. · Mental retardation also consists of adaptive functioning or adaptive deficits, which is a person's level of functioning in
community life, such as independent living.
This is compared There is no functioning
with peer group members in the local community. instrument assessment. developed to do a retroactive
In this case, a retroactive assessment is what
is required because there is no instrument that would measure Sasser's adaptive functioning in the year 1994. · The Scales of Independent Behavior Revised ("SIB-R"), is an instrument used to assess adaptive functioning deficits. Generally, this instrument is a tool for planning a course of treatment. well The SIB-R has different levels of analysis and is for retrospective because determination encompasses of adaptive
factors as well as qualitative factors. · Using this instrument, Dr. friends, family, and peers. Toomer visited with Sasser's Specifically, those who would
know Sasser's functioning within an age range prior to age 18. Using the SIB-R to attempt a retrospective analysis, Dr. Toomer found Sasser had eight areas of deficiency in terms of adaptive functioning. The areas of deficiency are as follows: social interaction skills, language comprehension, language expression, skills, time and punctuality, community money and value, and work
interaction. The AAMR requires deficiency or weakness in two areas of adaptive functioning to support a diagnosis of mental
retardation. · A person with mental retardation can perform some tasks in these areas, but still have deficits. For example, these
individuals can hold jobs, get married, drive a car and have a driver's license, as well as have a relationship. The upper level of mental retardation, under the DSM, is mild mental retardation. The range of IQ for mild mental retardation is The DSM describes borderline
a range of 50 to 55 to 70.
intellectual functioning as an IQ range from 71-84, generally. Moreover, the DSM establishes that "[d]ifferentiating mild mental retardation from borderline intellectual functioning requires careful consideration of all available information" because the two can look similar. Borderline intellectual
functioning does not contain the qualitative component of adaptive functioning deficits. · In assessing the evaluation with the SIB-R, Dr. Toomer was
inquiring about Sasser from people who had information as to his behavior prior to the age of 18. Therefore, he did not
interview Janet Thomas, who had a relationship with Sasser and is the mother of his child, although Ms. Thomas knew Sasser
at the time of the crime and his incarceration. Further, when Dr. Toomer utilized the software for scoring the SIB-R, he
used the pre-eighteen years of age data, but assessed how Sasser actually functions in the present time.
Toomer has testified in 18-20 cases since 2006 on the
issue of mental retardation of an accused criminal defendant. In the cases where he testified, he found there was mental retardation. However, in some cases where he was retained he
did not make a conclusion of mental retardation, but he was not called to testify in those cases. · Professor Tom Smith, the dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas testified that in the 1970's programs for mentally challenged school children were just being implemented in Arkansas and were minimally funded. There were no record-keeping requirements
on the part of school districts at that time. · Dr. Smith never worked in the Lewisville school system, where Sasser was educated, and he did not review the IQ scores for Sasser. Dr. Smith also had no information on whether Sasser
was served with a Title One program while in school or if Sasser was considered intellectually disabled while in school. · Dr. Moore is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has
practiced for about 15 to 16 years. He has testified in other federal court capital habeas proceedings for the respondent, including Arkansas. evaluation the Simpson6 case in the Eastern District of
In Simpson, Dr. and found Mr.
Moore preformed a psychological Simpson met the statutory
Norris, 490 F.3d 1029 (8th Cir.
requirements for mental retardation in Arkansas.
He has also
preformed similar work throughout the country in federal and state cases in approximately three dozen Atkins cases for both the petitioner and respondent. hired by the state, Dr. In at least three cases when
Moore determined the subject met the Dr. Moore also gave a
requirements of mental retardation.
presentation, along with the attorney general for the State of North Carolina, on the topic of handling experts in mental retardation trials on four different occasions in 2007. Each
presentation was to a District Attorney's Association or the Attorney General's Office. · Dr. Moore reviewed transcripts from school records, records
from the Southwest Arkansas Counseling and Mental Health Center, written transcripts of police interviews, police
interview reports, medical examiner's report, and telephone visitation records as well as interviewed over two dozen witnesses to evaluate whether Sasser meets the Arkansas
standard for mental retardation. · Dr. Moore disregarded an IQ test given to Sasser by Ms. Mary
Pat Carlson due to issues with the assessment that called into question the reliability and validity of this exam. score was higher than the 1994 score of 79, but Dr. found the administration of the test rendered The IQ Moore it of
questionable validity and reliability.
Regarding the 1994 score of 79, the standard error of measure would indicate a confidence interval of 74 to 84. 2010 score of what Dr. For the
Moore believed to be an 84, but was
given a score of 83, the confidence interval would be 78 to 88. · Dr. Moore disagreed with Dr. Toomer's assessment of a zero
score on Item number 23 of the vocabulary sub-test of the examination given in 2010. Dr. Toomer awarded no score for
the answer "different things" given by Sasser to the prompt of "diverse." Dr. Moore testified the manual clearly states the response "different things" is a one-point response. Dr.
Moore agreed the response must be queried, but stated that a query can only retain the score originally awarded, or allow the individual to get a higher score. As the original
response of "different things" was a one-point answer, Dr. Moore disagreed that the answer could be deducted points to yield a score of zero, despite Sasser giving the same response upon a query. Moreover, as this response was not a zero
response, the test should not have been discontinued at that point. The query also was not properly documented according
to the test publisher's manual. · In the field, when clinical psychologists are faced with test results involving aging norms, they will note the reliability of the scores may be reduced due to aging norms. The best
practice is to use the most up-to-date test.
administration would be the most reliable because it was given within a year of the norming dates. If the Flynn effect was
realized here, the 2010 results should be lower than the 1994 score. Wechsler manuals acknowledge Dr. Flynn's work
regarding the increase in scores over time, however there is no recommendation to alter a score because of the potential impact of the Flynn effect. Adjusting a score downward is not generally accepted clinical practice. In fact, Dr. Moore
testified he had only observed the IQ score adjusted downward for the Flynn effect in evaluations done by the defense in mental retardation hearings. The AAIDD states the best
practice to diagnose mental retardation is to recognize the Flynn effect, and it is the primary organization of its kind that deals with the assessment and diagnosis of mental
retardation. · Also, Dr. Moore disagreed with the caution urged by Dr.
Toomer as to artificial increases in the 2010 score due to Sasser being imprisoned in an "artificial environment." Dr.
Moore found the contention that death row would lead to greater intellectual development to be "striking." · Dr. Moore also looked for supporting data to the IQ scores, These are not IQ
such as aptitude and achievement tests.
tests, but are correlated with it, and these are measures of
Moore looked at the SRA7, the In 2010, Sasser's spelling
AFQT8, two WRATs9, and the WIAT10.
sub-test score on the WRAT-4 was in the 18th percentile; the arithmetic score was was in in the the 21st percentile; and sentence reading
composite was in the 34th percentile.
Moore placed the
IQ scores, along with the other scores from instruments measuring Sasser's cognitive functioning along a bell curve, to determine if there was a convergence of data. Dr. Moore
found the multiple exams mostly fall within the range between the two IQ scores, lending increased confidence those IQ scores are accurate. Dr. (Respondent's Exhibit 2). As a result,
Moore concluded that Sasser had impaired cognitive
functioning, but not mental retardation as defined under Arkansas law. · Dr. Moore agreed with Dr. Toomer that Sasser displayed some
deficits in adaptive functioning, however he disagreed those deficits were significant enough to meet statutory
requirements. To be "significant deficits" under the statute, in clinical terms, Sasser would need to be functioning about
7 8 9 10
Science Research Associates Achievement Series Armed Forces Qualification Test Wide Range Achievement Test Wechsler Individual Achievement Test
two standard deviations below the mean. opined that Dr.
Toomer's administration of the SIB-R to
retroactively assess deficits in adaptive functioning was not valid and reliable because 1) the age equivalent scores were not based on an individual's assessment of Sasser, they were a compilation of many different recollections and 2) because the age for the assessments varied, there is no indication of a specific age, but just a wide range of assessment across various ages. Dr. Moore did note that Sasser's overall level of adaptive functioning likely falls below the average to borderline range. Adaptive functioning on the job would not
mean a job required abstract thinking, but that the individual could show up on time and work independently without specific guidance. · Grant Harris, the Assistant Director of Institutions with the Arkansas Department of Correction at the time of the hearing, was previously the warden of the Varner Supermax unit, which is the facility that houses death row inmates. capacity he became familiar with Sasser. · Previous to his conviction in 1994 which placed him on death row, Sasser was incarcerated in 1989 for an unrelated In this
He was processed in 1989 through the diagnostic
unit, where he was given a medical evaluation, including an interview by medical health staff, and given an orientation to
the procedures for the Arkansas Department of Correction. Sasser completed orientation on February 16, 1989. From
diagnostic, he was moved to the Cummins Unit on February 24, 1989. The two and a half week processing time at the
diagnostic unit is typical for new inmates. · All inmates physically and mentally capable are assigned a job, if an inmate chooses not to work, he or she is given a disciplinary. Work assignments take into consideration prior
employment, institutional needs, education, and background. An inmate can receive a promotion to a better work assignment, or to a different Class. Class 2 inmates receive twenty days
off their sentence for every month served, Class 1 inmates receive thirty days for every thirty days served, and can essentially cut their sentence in half. · Sasser was initially assigned to the kitchen. He was then
transferred to the Varner Unit in April and assigned to inside building utility and then to inside maintenance. Kitchen
detail could include all aspects of food preparation, the actual work Sasser performed is not evident in the records. As part of the building utility crew, Sasser was responsible for cleaning including windows, mopping, and scrubbing walls. In about a month, Sasser moved to inside maintenance which is responsible for plumbing, electrical, wiring, leaks, and other similar duties. Sasser remained in this job for the duration
of his sentence which began in 1989, until he was transferred to the Wrightsville Unit in 1992. Inside maintenance is a
sought-after job because the inmate can travel one end of the facility to another, including places where the inmates has contact with female staff. · The level of supervision Sasser would have would depend on the tools he was using for a particular job. Class A tools are
those which could be used in an escape attempt and require direct supervision. Class B tools are those which could not
aid in an escape attempt and can be used with more autonomy. · Sasser maintained his class 1 status for 12 months while on inside maintenance, he also was awarded meritorious good time for on-the-job training as an electrician and for showing "proficiency and excellence at his job as an electrician." This would mean Sasser was doing the job as required, and not abusing sick-call. · When Sasser transferred to the Wrightsville unit in 1992, he was assigned to furniture manufacturing. operator. the Sasser was a saw
In this job, Sasser would have cut the wood down to for was each piece good to put together for for his
performance as a saw operator.
To receive the good time
credit award, Sasser would have to have no re-cuts or wasted wood. He held this position for six months, then he
transferred to the pre-release program in December of 1992. · Pre-release was designed for inmates within 90 to 120 days of release, to aid them in anything the inmates needed to know, or be trained on, for getting back into the "free world" and functioning driver's there. This includes classes how on to getting balance a a
checkbook, and similar other aspects of daily life.
It is a
highly motivated program, and an inmate has to want to be in it or he or she will be removed. release program for three months. · When Sasser returned to the Arkansas Department of Correction two years later, in 1994, as a death row inmate, he did not go through the diagnostic unit, but went straight to an isolation cell. He was monitored closely for the first seven days and Sasser was in the pre-
was given a handbook and told about the grievance process. After that, Sasser was placed on death row and had no contact with the general population inmates. · Sergeant John Cartwright was the maintenance supervisor at the Varner Unit when Sasser was a member of that work crew. Cartwright would supervise up to eight inmates at a time and supervised Sasser for three years. Cartwright remembered
Sasser because he did a good job in the maintenance crew and there was never a problem with him. In this job, Sasser was He could get
on call basically twenty-four hours a day.
called out at night to make a repair with the security guard of the unit. Sasser had his own set of tools, kept separately
from the tools of other inmates in a tool pouch or toolbox, and tools had to be counted before an inmate left a job, and then they were locked up until needed. tool. Sasser never lost a
Carwright also recommended Sasser for good time credit
due to Sasser's performance as a electrician. · Brian Hollinger was hired to start the pre-release program at the Wrightsville unit. This program was to help inmates make
a transition to the real world, including computer training and interview skills. The program would also help inmates get their taxes up to date, as well as study and sit for the written portion of the drivers license exam. The driver's
license portion consisted of two to three days in a classroom environment studying the driver's license manual, a practice test designed by Mr. Hollinger, by a and then the actual at the
Wrightsville unit. · Sasser scored 100% on both the sign portion of the driver's license test and the written portion of the test. exam one time. Sasser was He took the
The driver's license exam is the only exam in pre-release. There was no other
evaluation done to see if Sasser understood the program as a whole.
Dr. Kevin McGrew is the director of the Institute for Applied Psychometrics, a corporation developed for creating measures of intelligence and achievement in psychometiric consultation and research on intelligence. Dr. McGrew disagreed with Dr.
Moore's report in so far as it suggested the ASVAB11 was a good proxy of general intelligence for Sasser. aptitude test. are Tests the for WAIS, adults the which The ASVAB is an measure the general the
Stanford-Binet-5, and the Woodcock-Johnson. · Dr. McGrew criticized Dr. Moore's findings and observations in the following respects: When Dr. Moore suggested that the
ASVAB is a "heavily loaded"
measure of general intelligence, Moreover, the Flynn effect
he violated joint test standards.
is a real effect and should be adjusted for as a matter of common practice, especially in those situations where there is a specific cutoff score. In his report Dr. Moore incorrectly equated obsolete norms to other test variables such as
demographic factors. published by Dr.
Moore relied on an article
Hagan in 2008 which suggested the Flynn
effect should not result in an adjustment of score, however Dr. Hagan wrote a more recent article in 2010 wherein he
stated the Flynn effect should be taken into consideration, but not to a specific score deduction.
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
McGrew further stated an adjustment should be made to
Sasser's score to account for the Flynn effect and this is now the best practice. The best estimate would be to adjust three points per decade. Sasser's 1994 score would be 75, plus or To account for the
minus the standard error of measurement.
standard error of measurement, the score range would be 70 to 80. Accordingly, the best estimate on Sasser's WAIS-R score The best test would be
in 1994 would be a range of 73 to 78.
the one given in 2010, because it is closer in time to the norms. IV. Discussion A. As Expert Witnesses a threshold matter, the Court must determine if the
witnesses presented as experts are qualified to testify in that capacity. Dr. Toomer, Dr. Moore, Dr. Smith, and Dr. McGrew Dr.
were each submitted as expert witnesses, with no objections.
Smith was proposed as a qualified expert in the history of special education in the state of Arkansas. Dr. McGrew was proposed as an
expert in intelligence theory, psychometrics, and psychological and educational testing. Doctors Toomer and Moore rendered ultimate
opinions as to whether or not Sasser is mentally retarded as defined by the applicable law. Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the
admissibility of expert testimony. FED. R. EVID. 702. Under Rule
702, proposed expert testimony must satisfy three prerequisites to be admitted. See Lauzon v. Senco Prods. Inc., 270 F.3d 681, 686 (8th Cir. 2001). First, evidence based on scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge must be useful to the finder of fact in deciding the ultimate issue of fact. Id. Second, the proposed witness must be qualified. Id. Third, the proposed evidence must be reliable or trustworthy in the evidentiary sense, so that if the finder of fact accepts it as true, it provides the assistance the finder of fact requires. Id. The district court has a "gatekeeping" obligation to make certain that all testimony admitted under Rule 702 satisfies these prerequisites. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597-98 (1993). The Court finds that all the submitted testimony of the experts, with the exception of Dr. McGrew, should be admitted and
considered as admissible expert testimony. Dr. McGrew was presented as an expert on intelligence theory, psychometrics, and psychological and educational testing and was asked: to review Dr. Moore's interpretation of the ASVAB; to review Dr. Moore's and Dr. Toomer's treatment of the Flynn effect; to
give an opinion on the application of the Flynn effect as a professionally accepted standard; to review the standard error of measurement as applied by Dr. Moore and Dr. Toomer; and to review
the scoring issue on the vocabulary subtest of the WAIS-4, as
administered by Dr. Dr. McGrew
Toomer. testified that the ASVAB was a measure of
aptitude, specifically created to measure aptitude for skills used in the military. He stated that Dr. Moore's characterization of
the ASVAB -- as related to intelligence -- was incorrect and could mislead the reader in violation of joint test standards. McGrew also opined that the Flynn effect should be Dr.
scientific fact and should be adjusted for -- particularly in those situations where there is a specific cutoff score. Noting that Dr. Moore included the Flynn effect in other things which are
considered in the norming stage of the test creation (such as demographic variables), Dr. McGrew concluded Dr. Moore's
characterization to be misleading. Dr. McGrew made no evaluation of Sasser as to whether he was
mentally retarded or had an onset of mental retardation prior to age 18. Instead, he stated that his testimony was "criticism" and TR. 8, ECF No. 157. Thus, while Dr.
"to educate the Court."
McGrew's testimony could have had some bearing on the Court's evaluation of Dr. Moore's credibility and evaluation of his
testimony, it was not helpful to the Court in determining whether Sasser was mentally retarded to an extent he would be granted relief from the death penalty. Accordingly, if Dr. McGrew's
testimony met the first prong of the criteria mentioned above -which is doubtful -- the Court found it to be unpersuasive and
outweighed by the testimony of Dr. Moore, which the Court found to be both credible and persuasive. B. Mental Retardation
As noted above, the law applicable to this case requires four discrete prongs to be met, before a determination of "mental retardation" can be made. First, Sasser must have significantly subaverage general
intellectual functioning. Second, the significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning must be accompanied by a significant deficit or
impairment in adaptive functioning.12 Third, the significant deficit or impairment in adaptive functioning must manifest in the developmental period, but no later than age eighteen (18) years of age. Fourth and finally, Sasser must also suffer from a deficit in adaptive behavior. The Court will address each specific prong, as it relates to Sasser, in turn.
The Court notes the Arkansas Statute appears to only require a s i n g l e deficit or impairment in adaptive functioning, however, Act 420 of 1993 r e f e r s to "deficits or impairments" in the plural. 1993 Ar. Legis Serv. 420 (West).
Significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning is a clinical term defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., Text Revision)("DSM-IV") as "an IQ of about 70 or below (approximately 2 standard deviations below the mean)." At the hearing, the experts also stated "significantly
subaverage intellectual functioning" correlates with an IQ of 70 or below. Sasser received two IQ scores which were presented to the Court, a score of 79 in 1994 and a score of approximately 83 in 2010.13 Those who testified in this case, Dr. Toomer, Dr. Moore,
and even Dr.
McGrew all agreed on one point the 2010 examination
is the best indication of Sasser's intellectual functioning. Petitioner argues in his post-hearing brief, Br. ECF No. 159, that the 1994 exam is the best indicator because Arkansas law specifically demands reliance on intelligence measures performed closest to or contemporaneously with the time of the capital offense. Id. at 14. However, Sasser's expert at the evidentiary
hearing, Dr. time. Thus,
Toomer, testified that IQ is relatively stable over despite when the tests were given, both could
adequately establish Sasser's IQ because Sasser's IQ should remain somewhat constant throughout his adult life. Moreover, Atkins itself, under which precedent Sasser brings
A separate IQ test was given to Sasser in 1994, but this was not c o n s i d e r e d by either Dr. Toomer or Dr. Moore due to issues in a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , and the proximity in time to the first 1994 examination.
this claim, holds the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual mentally punishment retarded, prohibits which the execution Sasser's of person who is
functioning has been put at issue by counsel. (emphasis supplied) Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002).14 Thus, the Court will
discuss the most recent examination, and the one supported by the experts at the hearing to be the most reliable indicator of Sasser's intellectual functioning, first. Respondent argues the score of 83 on the 2010 examination is likely lower than Sasser's true score due to a scoring error on the
The case cited by Sasser for the proposition that Arkansas law is s o l e l y concerned with the status of the defendant at the time of the offense i s Anderson v. State, 163 S.W.3d 333 (Ark. 2004). However, in that case the A r k a n s a s Supreme Court was faced with the specific issue of whether or not the d e f e n d a n t was mentally retarded at the time of the offense, because unlike S a s s e r , Anderson had raised the issue in the trial court and was then directly a p p e a l i n g the death sentence. Id. The Arkansas Supreme Court stated that " A t k i n s merely reaffirmed this State's preexisting prohibition against e x e c u t i n g the mentally retarded." Id. at 334-35. Moreover, the evidence r e j e c t e d by the Arkansas Supreme Court was evidence of Anderson's IQ as scored i n 1996, while the crime took place in 2000. Id. The Court favored a 2001 IQ s c o r e because it was closer in time to the offense, and appeared to be a b e t t e r indication of Anderson's mental abilities, stating "[s]ection 5-4-618 c l e a r l y provides that no defendant with mental retardation at the time of c o m m i t t i n g capital murder shall be sentenced to death. The statute s p e c i f i c a l l y places the burden upon the defendant to prove mental retardation a t the time of committing the offense by a preponderance of the evidence." Id. at 356. Clearly, in the context of Anderson's case, the issue was his m e n t a l retardation at the time of the offense. In fact, the Arkansas statute, w r i t t e n before Atkins was decided, is written to address the issue of mental r e t a r d a t i o n when presented at the trial court level. However, there is no i n d i c a t i o n in Anderson that the Arkansas Supreme Court would reject or d i s c o u n t an IQ score rendered after the commission of a crime, as this s u b s e q u e n t IQ score may be relevant, as here, to whether the defendant is m e n t a l l y retarded at the time of execution. Atkins would prohibit the e x e c u t i o n of someone proven to have mental retardation, despite any evidence o f superior cognitive abilities at the time of the commission of the crime. See Atkins, 536 U.S. 304. Therefore, to suggest that the Arkansas Statute o n l y bars from execution those with mental retardation at the time of the c r i m e , but not those mentally retarded at the time of execution, could call i n t o question its validity, an issue not raised by the parties, and is too b r o a d of a reading of Anderson.
vocabulary subtest at question 23, which led to a one point reduction of score and a premature termination of the exam. The
implication by Respondent is that Sasser could have attained at least an 84 on the exam, if the exam had been properly scored, and possibly a higher score could have been achieved if Sasser had the opportunity to answer additional questions. A determination of whether the true score should be 83 or 84 and even higher is unnecessary because if the Court assumes
Sasser's score was correctly stated at an 83, applying the standard deviation of error, there is a 95 out of 100 percent chance that Sasser's IQ is in the range of 78 to 88. At the very lowest
estimation of the score, a 78, which is derived by accepting the examination as scored by Dr. Toomer and application of the
standard deviation of error to the lowest deviation, Sasser's score still remains eight points higher than two standard deviations from the mean, or a score of 70. Therefore, such score does not meet
the definition of "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning." Additionally, although the DSM-IV states it is "possible to diagnose Mental Retardation in individuals with IQs between 70 and 75," Sasser's 2010 score, even at its lowest projected level, still is above this range by three points. MANUAL
STATISTICAL Thus, the
MENTAL DISORDERS 49 (4th ed.
Text Revision 2000).
2010 score provides no evidence Sasser's intellectual functioning
is "significantly subaverage." The Court then turns to the IQ test administered in 1994. this examination, Sasser achieved a score of 79. On
contention is that due to the obsolescence of the norms for that test, the score should be discounted to a score of 75. This is
called the "Flynn effect"15 and essentially is a way of accounting for an increasingly intelligent population. Applying the standard
margin of error to the score of 75 leaves the Court with a 95 out
While much evidence was presented regarding the Flynn effect, the C o u r t does not find it necessary to make a determination of whether or not the F l y n n effect should
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