ABA Journal


Constitutional Law

7th Circuit says lawyer failed mentally disabled client by not seeking unfitness finding

Aug 14, 2013, 06:25 pm CDT


WHOA, did you really use the "R" word in the title and body of this story ABAJournal? Umm, very insensitive. The preferred nomenclature is "intellectually challenged" or "differently abled."
Shame on you!

By WMantooth on 2013 08 14, 6:49 pm CDT

So "retarded" is only offensive if the person is, in fact, not retarded? That's kind of retar... silly.

By PALaw on 2013 08 14, 7:25 pm CDT

I thought it was still PC to use the word in its original sense - when someone has been diagnosed with mental retardation, they are mentally retarded. It is NOT appropriate to use it to demean the individual or as a colloquial version of "That's stupid."

By RecentGrad on 2013 08 14, 8:29 pm CDT

So, not only was the defendant a child, he is mentally retarded. And he was charged as an adult. What is that?

By NoleLaw on 2013 08 14, 11:57 pm CDT

There must be a different article with the R word I don't see it here. The only notable R word I could find was Remedy.

What I am wondering is if there's some sort of legal tactical planning at work here?

By concernedcitizen on 2013 08 15, 12:10 am CDT

The headline and article were changed to remove it. Like No. 1, I wondered what was going on when I saw the original version. I assume that once readers started commenting, Lee and Molly got out that little style book that tells them what is PC and found that the "r" word currently is not.

By B. McLeod on 2013 08 15, 1:01 am CDT

@5 the title was changed, but the URL was not. Read the "R" word in the URL link to the story.

By URL on 2013 08 15, 3:17 pm CDT

Imagine my lack of surprise when I came back to this article hoping for more comments poking fun at word choice, and the fuddy-duddies went back and changed the article without so much as a note.

By PALaw on 2013 08 15, 3:17 pm CDT

Nice to know you can claim childishness as a defense to standing trial for murder. Doesn't the Seventh Circuit have better things to do with its time?

By Publicus on 2013 08 15, 3:26 pm CDT

I wish the people who comment negatively on this ruling would bother reading the opinion of the 7th Circuit. It starts by saying: "she (Defendant's mother) gave Johnson a two-inch-thick stack of educational and psychological records reflecting Newman’s lengthy history of severe mental and cognitive deficits.
The records included a diagnosis of mental retardation from the Social Security Administration, a
school psychologist's report indicating that Newman’s IQ was 62, and an Individualized Education Program report indicating that Newman read at a first-grade level". This is not "childishness". The 7th Circuit is hardly a bastion of liberal thought. The Justices rarely grant any type of relief in criminal cases.

By John Malvik on 2013 08 15, 3:43 pm CDT

You know, there actually isn't any harm in trying not to be offensive. I would hazard to guess that many in the legal profession and at the ABA would have corrected the headline out of a genuine desire not to crash around the universe ticking people off or perhaps, dare I say, out of a fundamental sense of decency that cautions against being unnecessarily hurtful. Sure, there may be a few who feel choked and constrained by the chains of political correctness, but I’d be willing to bet that there are more who are just trying not to be jerks.

By Drew W on 2013 08 15, 4:12 pm CDT

@ JohnMalvik - I agree. When you read the decision it is pretty clear that the attorney had PLENTY of information that should have rung the bell for him to at least bring up the issue of competency. His failure to even plead the issue or request a hearing is, IMHO, ineffective assistance of counsel. There appears to have been plenty of evidence at the time that the client was incapable of understanding what was happening.

By RecentGrad on 2013 08 15, 4:36 pm CDT

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