Letter to the Editor

Difficult to fake retardation under Missouri's law

Monday, July 8, 2002

To the editor:

The Southeast Missourian's June 30 editorial correctly characterized the U.S. Supreme Court ban on the death penalty for people with mental retardation. While states that haven't passed legislation may struggle a bit with definitions, Missouri's law is a model that will pass scrutiny.

Missouri's statute reads: "As used in this section, the terms 'mental retardation' or 'mentally retarded' refer to a condition involving substantial limitations in general functioning characterized by significantly subaverage intellectual functioning with continual extensive related deficits and limitations in two or more adaptive behaviors such as communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure and work, which conditions are manifested and documented before 18 years of age."

Missouri's statute follows a national standard that generally equates to an IQ of under 70. It has held up over the years.

In negotiations with lawmakers, prosecutors and judges who might mistakenly think an individual could fake the condition of mental retardation, we took an additional step. We added to the statute that a person may be found to be mentally retarded "if the trier finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is mentally retarded." The medical, educational and vocational records that exist today make it virtually impossible to feign mental retardation.

For more information, visit our Web site at www.arcmo.org and click on "Mental retardation."

JERRY FORD

Executive Director

Association for Retarded

Citizens of Missouri

Cape Girardeau