Convicted hitman's lawyer argues he was mentally retarded

In an attempt to save a convicted hit man from a death sentence, a neuropsychologist told a Fulton County jury Wednesday that Cleveland Clark is "mildly mentally retarded."

Defense witness Stephen Maccioccihi, director of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and an expert witness for the defense, testified Clark functions at the level of a 12-year-old.

Consequently, Clark has not been able to hold a job, is impulsive and has difficulty with everyday activities, Maccioccihi testified.

His attorneys hope that will persuade jurors to vote for life in prison, rather than death, for the April 26, 2000,contract murder of 22-year-old Sparkle Rai.

That same jury convicted Clark on Friday —a year to the day that another jury convicted Chiman Rai, 68, of paying $10,000 to have his daughter-in-law killed. Chiman Rai, a native of India, objected to his son marrying Sparkle Rai because she was African American.

Sparkle and Rajeeve "Ricky" Rai had been married a month when Clark strangled and stabbed her in front of her crying infant.

Maccioccihi testified Clark scored low when he was tested in jail for mental competency.

He conceded that Clark could have skewed the test results by intentionally giving wrong answers. But "you would have to have a lot of skill to malinger consistently," Maccioccihi said, and Clark did not have that skill,.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Hill asked if Clark, with his lower IQ, would "know right from wrong?"

"Yes," Maccioccihi answered.

And could he also understand the consequences of his actions?

"Yes," Maccioccihi said.

"He just has a low IQ score?" Hill asked.

"Yes," Maccioccihi testified.

Prosecutors say Rai found Clark with the help of a business acquaintance, Herbert Green, and a Willie Fred Evans. Evans allegedly recruited Clark.

Green and Evans agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for probation.