The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
The Court previously denied Gerald Ross Pizzuto, Jr.'s Successive Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Seeking Relief Under Atkins v. Virginia, and Judgment was entered on January 10, 2012. (Dkts. 228, 229.) Pending before the Court is Pizzuto's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. 230.)
For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Motion.
Reconsideration of a final judgment under Rule 59(e) is an "extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources." Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). A losing party cannot use a post-judgment motion to reconsider as a means of litigating old matters or presenting arguments that could have been raised before the entry of judgment. School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah County, Or. v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993).
As a result, there are four limited grounds upon which a motion to alter or amend judgment may be granted: (1) the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact; (2) the moving party presents newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence; (3) the motion is necessary to prevent manifest injustice; or (4) there is an intervening change in the law. Turner v. Burlington North. Santa Fe R.R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).
Pizzuto seeks reconsideration or correction of the Court's decision on two grounds: first, he contends that the Court misapplied the concept of a standard error of measurement as it pertains to IQ test scores; second, he asserts that the Court erred in discounting, as "ambiguous," Dr. Ricardo Weinstein's test results that were intended to assess the quality of Pizzuto's effort during his most recent intelligence testing.
1. The Standard Error of Measurement
The Court discussed the concept of a standard error of measurement as part of its analysis of whether Pizzuto had shown that the Idaho Supreme Court's adjudication of his Atkins claim was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. The Court noted that the Idaho Supreme Court "appears to have applied a strict interpretation of the language that the Idaho legislature chose to use, holding that any full scale [IQ test] score above 70 fails as a matter of law, without regard to a range of error." (Dkt. 228, p. 18.) The Court indicated that it was "troubled by the Idaho Supreme Court's apparent rejection of a standard error of measurement on individual testing instruments," because "[c]ommon sense about the nature of human error suggests that no single number on a test can measure intellectual functioning with absolute pinpoint accuracy." (Id.) The Court recognized that "professionals in the field agree that scores on IQ tests fall within a small range on either side of the reported numerical score, usually plus or minus three to five points." (Id.)
Pizzuto does not appear to object to those aspects of the Court's opinion. Instead, he bases his argument on the following sentence: "a person who receives a full scale IQ score of 72 on a test may have an actual IQ score on that test as low as 67 or as high as 77, and where on this continuum the most likely score lies -- above or below 70 -- is a question of fact to be decided on all of the evidence presented." (Dkt. 228, p. 19.) (Emphasis in original.) Pizzuto characterizes this sentence as revealing the Court's mistaken belief that a trial court can find a precise numerical IQ score within the range of error, contrary to the accepted practice in the mental health field. The Court is not persuaded that it either misunderstood the concept of a standard error of measurement or, more importantly, that this sentence had any bearing on the Court's material legal conclusions in the case.
Initially, Pizzuto's interpretation of the sentence is curious, given the Court's preceding statements that "no single number on a test can measure intellectual functioning with absolute pinpoint accuracy" and that "professionals in the field agree that scores on IQ tests fall within a small range on either side of the reported numerical score, usually plus or minus three to five points." In any case, the Court merely intended to illustrate how the Idaho Supreme Court could haveallowed for a standard error of measurement on IQ testing while still remaining faithful to Idaho Code § 19-2515A, as follows.
To be entitled to relief under the statute, a defendant must show, in part, that he has "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning," meaning that he has an "intelligence quotient of seventy (70) or below." Idaho Code § 19-2515A(1)(b). This language could pose a dilemma for a trial court that is confronted with a full scale IQ score that is slightly above 70 on a test that has a recognized range of numerical error that straddles the statutory cut-off. One way to resolve that issue would be for the court to interpret the statute as disqualifying any IQ score that is above 70 without regard to a range of error. Another way would be for the court to take into consideration the standard error of measurement while reviewing the other evidence in the record -- for instance, evidence of significant deficits in adaptive functioning -- to determine whether the lower end of the range is more likely to be indicative of the defendant's true intellectual functioning. Under that scenario, the court could find that a defendant has proven that ...