Supreme Court Ruling On IQ, Death Penalty Could Affect Several States


Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down Florida's strict IQ cutoff for determining criminals' eligibility for the death penalty could affect other states with similar cutoffs, including Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The 5-4 concluded that Florida's rigid IQ threshhold of 70 “disregards established medical practice” and creates the “unacceptable risk” that an inmate with intellectual disabilities might be executed, in violation of the Constitution. “Our society does not consider this strict cutoff as proper or humane,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

The decision favored Freddie Lee Hall, 68, who has been on death row since 1978, and who scored 71 on one IQ test. Writing for dissenters, Justice Samuel Alito said, “It is quite wrong for the court to proclaim that 'the vast majority of states' have rejected Florida's approach. The states have adopted a multitude of approaches to a very difficult question.” Taking account of the standard error of measurement means that an IQ score of 71 to 75 would fall within the range of intellectual disability, formerly called mental retardation.

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