Supreme Court Case From Florida Takes Up Issue Of IQ, Death Penalty


Florida officials say Freddie Lee Hall is smart enough to die for what he did. On Monday, 36 years after the double murder that sent Hall to death row, the Supreme Court will consider whether Florida is right, McClatchy Newspapers report. (The high court is open for business even though a snowstorm closed the executive branch.) The court's answer could mean life or death for inmates whose below-average intelligence puts them on the borderline of eligibility for execution. “This is a significant case because a decision the wrong way could lead to longer delays in carrying out sentences,” says Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento.

The American Bar Association warns that if Florida wins, “the execution of individuals with mental retardation” could be inevitable. With competing legal briefs, Scheidegger and the bar association joined others in trying to sway the court. The Supreme Court has ruled out executing those called “mentally retarded” or “intellectually disabled,” as a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The new case concerns the standards that states can use in defining who's disabled. Hall’s tested IQ has ranged from 60 to 80. Most of his IQ test scores have hovered in the low 70s, well below the 100 average but slightly above Florida's strict threshold of 70 for determining intellectual disability.

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