An Atlanta-based clinical psychologist testified the description given by people who knew Timothy Tyrone Foster as a child is indicative of a person who suffered from adaptive functional deficiencies.
Dr. Marlyne Israelian was on the witness stand all day Tuesday during a motion hearing in the death penalty case for Foster. He will be retried for the 1986 murder of Queen Madge White after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out his conviction.
Jerry Word, an attorney for Foster said Israelian’s testimony was an effort to establish a clinical background for the major defense of Foster — that he had intellectual disabilities. Word said those disabilities should bar the state by law from seeking the death penalty in the event their client is convicted.
Israelian concluded her testimony Tuesday saying that all of the documentation that she had seen provided “consistent, convergent evidence” that Foster had intellectual disabilities. She said that at the time the murder was committed, when Foster was 18 years of age, that “at best” he had the mental ability of a 12-year-old.
The psychologist testified that people with intellectual disabilities could be found competent to stand trial. This was the case in 1999 when Foster was the focus of a civil trial to determine his competency.
The psychologist testified that, when evaluating a person for intellectual deficiencies, IQ is just one factor and that adaptive functioning skills must also be considered as well as a determination of the time the diagnosis was made.
Foster’s difficulty with adaptive functioning skills is where Israelian made note of testimony Monday from several people who knew Foster.
Several people testified that he was easily manipulated and people would take advantage of him. Anthony Dion Blackwell testified Foster couldn’t learn the rules of basketball. He also talked about a teacher who would frequently repeat and repeat questions to Foster to get any response from him. Other students even would attempt to help Foster with the answer to get the teacher off his back.
When the mental issue was initially raised as prohibition for the imposition of the death penalty, Israelian said, many felt inmates would attempt to score poorly on IQ tests. But the stigma associated with being diagnosed with intellectual disabilities was so strong that there was evidence to suggest that, she told Floyd Superior Court Judge Billy Sparks.
“People do opposite, faking good as much as they can because the stigma is unbearable,” Israelian said.
Floyd County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Salmon will cross examine Israelian Wednesday.
A second expert witness is also slated to testify Wednesday and Sparks said he would allow the defense team to make remarks regarding a challenge to the grand jury indictment against Foster for the purpose of getting the challenge on the record, but that it is his opinion that any challenges to the grand jury had been waived in the past.