Mitigating Murder at Capital Sentencing: An Empirical and Practical Psycho-legal Strategy Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 9:1–34, 2009

The United States Supreme Court has historically and recently mandated heightened standards in defense team preparation in capital litigation. The ultimate sentence of death necessitates such regulations to protect a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. The proper investigation and preparation of mitigation evidence and testimony is critical to the penalty phase of a capital case and is the cornerstone of this article. This author will describe the current literature relevant to the etiology and pathways to violence and homicide. In particular, biopsychosocial factors that are empirically related to violence both individually and cumulatively will be explored and integrated into a practical mitigation strategy at capital sentencing. The author will explain the psycho-legal importance of death penalty mitigation and potential problems a forensic psychologist/psychiatrist and defense team may encounter at capital sentencing.

Methamphetamine Motivated Murder: Forensic Psychological/Psychiatric Assessment in Capital Litigation Journal of Psychiatry & Law 35, Winter 2007

This article examines the clinical and forensic (psycho-legal) aspects of methamphetamine use. The author will describe the clinical and psychiatric effects of the drug on an individual’s functioning. Forensic psychological/psychiatric issues including substance-induced psychosis relevant to a not guilty by reason of insanity defense, diminished capacity, and mitigation at capital sentencing will be addressed. Case law pursuant to forensic aspects of methamphetamine use will also be thoroughly explored.

State Supreme Court Responses to Atkins v. Virginia: Adaptive Functioning Assessment in Light of Purposeful Planning, Premeditation, and the Behavioral Context of the Homicide Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, Volume 6, No. 4, 2006

ABSTRACT. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Atkins v. Virginia and held that it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded individual in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Since then, state supreme courts are entertaining arguments concerning adaptive functioning assessment in the context of the defendant’s criminal history and role in the homicide. This article will outline the reasoning in some of these post-Atkins state supreme court cases, and briefly address the antisocial personality disorder/mental retardation distinction pursuant specifically to adaptive functioning abilities in light of the defendant’s behavior within the context of the homicide.

Although this debate leaves an argument that may not be able to be answered by forensic mental health professional experts in Atkins type claims, a recent U.S. Supreme Court case(Tennard v. Dretke, 2004) may shed some light and offer direction to attorney arguments in this area. This case will be briefly discussed, which addressed in part the issue of whether a jury should consider if a capital defendant committed a homicide deliberately with a reasonable expectation that death would ensue and whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s prohibition of executing the mentally retarded in Atkins applies if the crime cannot be attributed to mental retardation. doi:10.1300/J158v06n04_01 [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: docdelivery@haworth Website:; © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]