The determination of whether an accused killer is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for execution in a fatal Beauregard Town home-invasion now shifts to a Baton Rouge state judge after two psychologists disagreed on the matter in court Friday.
Aramis Jackson, 26, has yet to stand trial in the Sept. 24, 2010, shooting death of Alexandra Engler, 42, and wounding of her then-9-year-old daughter, Ariana. He is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office has said it intends to seek the death penalty, but the U.S. Supreme Court has barred the execution of inmates found to be intellectually disabled.
Prosecutors dispute the defense’s contention that Jackson is intellectually disabled.
California psychologist Ricardo Weinstein, who was hired by Jackson’s defense team to evaluate him, testified Friday he believes “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty” that Jackson is intellectually disabled based on his IQ test scores and adaptive functioning.
“The scores, in my opinion, are indicative of intellectual developmental disability,” Weinstein said while being questioned by Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office director David Price.
But New Orleans psychologist Gina Manguno-Mire, who evaluated Jackson for the prosecution, told state District Judge Tony Marabella she found that Jackson’s IQ did not fall within the range of intellectual disability.
Weinstein characterized intellectual disability as a “thinking disorder” rather than a learning disorder and said Jackson’s big weakness is abstract reasoning.
He noted that Jackson began receiving special education services in kindergarten.
Weinstein, a practicing psychologist for 35 years, conceded to prosecutor Darwin Miller that Jackson has been able to function in society.
“He’s obviously a very resourceful person, otherwise he would not have survived,” the psychologist said.
Manguno-Mire, a staff psychologist at the state mental hospital in Jackson, said Jackson was able to understand that she was evaluating him to determine whether he would be eligible for execution if convicted of capital murder.
Jackson, who has a child with his girlfriend, conveyed an understanding of the concept of money, leaving tips at restaurants and paying bills. He also appeared to understand how to use a smartphone, she said.
Marabella asked Manguno-Mire if Jackson might have given her parroted responses to her questions. The psychologist said it was possible but she did not believe so.
The judge said he will rule on the issue of intellectual disability after both sides submit written post-hearing arguments.