High Court Takes New Look At Ban On Executing The “Intellectually Disabled”


Freddie Lee Hall sits on Florida’s death row for the 1978 abduction and murder of a pregnant woman, 21. He says he should not be executed because, he claims, he is “mentally retarded.” Twelve years after the U.S. Supreme Court held that execution of mentally retarded persons violates the Eighth Amendment, the justices will use Hall’s case to examine how states determine who is “intellectually disabled” (now the preferred term for mentally retarded) and whether Florida’s test is too narrow, reports the National Law Journal. Arguments are set for March 3.

Florida and its supporters want the court to hold fast to its language giving states “the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction.” Most states have developed appropriate standards, according to death penalty scholars and some national psychological and disability organizations. However, they and Hall argue the justices need to tell Florida and some other states that their tests ignore generally accepted clinical definitions of mental retardation. Florida’s test generally tracked the three elements that the Supreme Court suggested 12 years ago. The justices said that “clinical definitions of mental retardation require not only subaverage intellectual functioning,

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