Dr. Greenspan has been involved as a psychological consultant in a number of criminal cases in which the defendant has cognitive impairments which may or may not rise to the level of "mental retardation" (MR). Most of these are so-called "Atkins" cases involving possible imposition of the death penalty, although he has also participated in homicide cases where the state is not seeking death and in cases where crimes other than homicide may have been committed. Dr. Greenspan's role in forensic consultations around mental retardation reflects the fact that he is a recognized authority on the nature and definition of MR (he was the most cited authority in the AAMR 2002 "red book" diagnostic manual and his book WHAT IS MENTAL RETARDATION?, co-edited with Harvey Switzky, is a widely-used classic.) It also reflects the fact that Dr. Greenspan is especially known for his work on "adaptive behavior" (social and practical incompetence not directly tapped by IQ), the "second prong" of the MR definition and the prong that is least adequately understood or assessed by forensic psychologists who lack training in MR. Dr. Greenspan has also published some influential papers on various issues facing psychologists conducting Atkins evaluations. At this point, he has testified in half a dozen cases in three or four states (and has submitted Declarations in many more) and has always been certified as an expert, either in psychology or MR.
Dr. Greenspan (who is licensed as a psychologist in the state of Nebraska) can, and has, played a number of roles in criminal cases where MR, with or without related disorders, is a possible diagnosis. Among these roles are the following: (a) examining materials and providing confidential advice to attorneys regarding whether they appear to have a valid MR claim, and assisting them with understanding how to pursue such a claim, such as in collecting relevant data from lay witnesses and in securing competent assessments by other experts; (b) submitting Declarations or Affidavits on targeted issues, such as the "Flynn Effect" (need to correct for outdated IQ norms) and the appropriateness of attorney presence at testing sessions; (c) evaluating reports by experts on both sides and opining about whether or not they used proper procedures and demonstrated an adequate understanding of official diagnostic criteria; (d) educating the court or other entities (such as Governors or Clemency Boards) about the true nature of mild MR and disabusing them of inappropriate stereotypes, such as that adults with MR cannot work or drive a car; (e) conducting assessments of defendants, typically focusing on adaptive behavior (which requires interviewing family members and others who know the individual), and opining in writing and/ or in court about whether the individual merits a diagnosis of MR; and (f) conducting thorough competence evaluations, intended to understand the nature of an individual's impairments, the nature of possible mitigating factors, and the development (where appropriate) of service alternatives to incarceration.
Although the majority of his referrals have come from Defense attorneys, Dr. Greenspan has functioned as a neutral Court-appointed expert and has also been contacted by Prosecuting attorneys. His main commitment is to be a truthful reporter of the facts of a case, and he has refused to support a diagnosis of MR in a sizable percentage of the cases in which he has been asked to make a diagnosis.
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