With the high stakes in death penalty cases, however, there is bound to be additional controversy, Renee L. Binder, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, said in an interview with PT. In some cases, defense lawyers may attempt to shift diagnoses from other mental illness toward mental retardation because it will more readily exclude a person from entering death row.
"The question is, is that a good thing?" added Binder, who is also the president of the California Psychiatric Association and chair of the APA's commission on judicial action. "It gets into the issue about who should receive the death penalty. If anyone is on death row, they're going to try to claim whatever they can. That's not surprising. Maybe they do have mental retardation, and maybe it wasn't taken into account. It's not necessarily bad to get people off death row."