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Psychologist: Rodriguez's IQ, lack of coping skills support diagnosis of mental disability

Dru Sjodin.jpg
University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin was abducted and killed in 2003. Forum News Service file photo
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FARGO — A forensic neuropsychologist testified in federal court that in his opinion, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., who is on death row for the kidnapping and murder of a University of North Dakota college student, has an intellectual disability.

Ricardo Weinstein explained his diagnosis during a hearing before Judge Ralph Erickson, who presided over Rodriguez's trial in 2006. Rodriguez was found guilty and sentenced to death in the 2003 killing of Dru Sjodin.

Sjodin was 22 when she was abducted outside a mall in Grand Forks. Her body was found near Crookston, Minn., where Rodriguez lived.

Attorneys for Rodriguez are working to have his conviction and sentence overturned. They argue Rodriguez is intellectually disabled and therefore cannot be executed.

A hearing on that issue began Monday and continued Wednesday, Jan. 30, in Fargo, with testimony from Weinstein.

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Weinstein said his diagnosis was based on IQ testing he conducted with Rodriguez last year as well as a review of thousands of pages of documents that included school records and interviews of members of Rodriguez's family.

In general, when it comes to reading IQ scores a score of 100 is considered average. Only a small fraction of people have an IQ below 70 or above 130, according to online sources.

Weinstein said he did three different tests with Rodriguez at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where Rodriguez was being held last summer.

He said the tests yielded IQ ranges of approximately 65 to 75; 63 to 73 and 54 to 64, all of which, he said supported a diagnosis of intellectual disability. For such a diagnosis to be valid, he added, it must also be supported by evidence Rodriguez lacked an ability to function in everyday life.

Weinstein said that was true for Rodriguez in the three areas forensic psychologists look at — social, practical and conceptual.

He said based on his review of Rodriguez's early years, the question wasn't what could have caused Rodriguez to have suffered developmental delays, but instead the question became: "Why wouldn't he be developmentally delayed?"

According to Weinstein, there was evidence in Rodriguez's early years of severe malnutrition as well as abuse. Information that has come out during the hearing regarding Rodriguez's childhood includes the fact that he flunked both first and second grades and failed ninth grade twice before dropping out of school.

Weinstein noted that Rodriguez, 65, has been incarcerated for nearly all of his adult life, beginning when he was about 19.

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Prison records city by Weinstein indicate Rodriguez has poor impulse control, which Weinstein said is in keeping with someone who has an intellectual disability.

"He (Rodriguez) doesn't know how to control his emotions," Weinstein said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer began his cross-examination of Weinstein by asking about schools Weinstein cited as part of his professional background that are no longer operating.

Reisenauer also asked Weinstein about his interview with Rodriguez and the fact the interactions were not recorded.

Reisenauer is to resume his cross-examination when the hearing resumes Thursday, Jan. 31. The hearing could run well into next week, according to court officials.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. state court hearing mug
Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. listens at his bail hearing on a kidnapping charge in Northeast Central District Court in Grand Forks on Dec. 4, 2003. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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