Florida's death penalty came under fire from a key Supreme Court justice yesterday as a divided court considered the role of low IQ scores in exempting convicted murderers from execution, says McClatchy Newspapers. Swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy joined more liberal justices in questioning Florida's rigid IQ score threshold for determining intellectual disability. That raised the possibility that the court might strike down the strict IQ rule used by Florida, Idaho, Kentucky and several other death-penalty states.
Kennedy raised doubts about Florida's administration of the death penalty and the long delays that have ensued. His implicit criticism went beyond the current case of Freddie Lee Hall, 68, who has been on death row since 1978. “The last 10 people Florida has executed have spent an average of 24.9 years on death row,” Kennedy reminded Florida Solicitor General Allen Winsor. “Do you think that is consistent with the purposes of the death penalty, and is it consistent with sound administration of the justice system?” Pressed several times, Winsor noted that Florida lawmakers had addressed “a number of issues” Kennedy raised with passage of legislation last year. Many prison inmates have since challenged the state's Timely Justice Act, which is now before the Florida Supreme Court.