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Psychologists testify about El Reno murder suspect Joshua Steven Durcho's mental condition

by Nolan Clay Modified: June 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm •  Published: June 25, 2012

— An Oklahoma psychologist who has evaluated 1,500 to 2,000 criminal defendants testified Monday for the prosecution that murder suspect Joshua Steven Durcho is not mentally retarded.

“It seems pretty clear to me,” said Shawn Roberson, a psychologist with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The testimony came on the third day of a hearing to determine if Durcho is ineligible for the death penalty because of a mental condition now commonly referred to as intellectually disabled. The terms, “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation,” are still found in Oklahoma law, though.

Durcho, 29, is accused of killing his girlfriend and her four young children inside her El Reno apartment in January 2009. His jury trial is set for September. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The prosecution's psychologist testified Durcho has an IQ in the low borderline range, “right at the cusp of mental retardation but not quite there.” He also testified Durcho does not have any significant problems with adaptive behavior.

Canadian County District Judge Gary E. Miller will rule after hearing more testimony from Roberson on Wednesday.

Earlier Monday, a defense expert told the judge that Durcho has mental retardation.

“He's had difficulty all his life in different adaptive skills areas,” said Denis Keyes, a professor of special education at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. “He has difficulty with things other people take for granted.”

Keyes said Durcho had particular trouble as a boy with communicating and was misdiagnosed in school as having only a learning disability.

Testimony so far in the hearing has revealed that Durcho took special education classes in schools in El Reno and Indiana, and he once was suspended for taking a knife to school. He dropped out of school at age 15.

The testimony also has revealed that Durcho went to prison when he was 20 for marijuana possession and fought often with other inmates. After his release, witnesses said, he smoked marijuana almost daily and sometimes used other drugs such as methamphetamine.

“He said he was very involved with drugs from a very young age,” Keyes testified.

He rarely had a regular job, working briefly as a cook once and then other times as a bricklayer and a mechanic, witnesses said. He made some money doing tattoos.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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