You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

US Supreme Court rules Florida’s death penalty IQ standard unconstitutional


The U.S. Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional Florida’s standard for determining whether a Death Row inmate is so intellectually disabled that he should not be executed.

The state uses a rigid measure that doesn’t account for a standard measurement of error, commonly recognized in IQ testing.

“Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number,” the court found in a 5-4 decision Tuesday. “To impose the harshest of punishments on an intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being.”

The court considered the Florida case of Freddie Lee Hall, who in 1978 kidnapped, beat, raped and murdered a pregnant woman.

Hall’s childhood teachers repeatedly said he was mentally disabled. A lawyer who represented him in his murder trial said he had the mental capacity of the lawyer’s 4-year-old daughter.

With an IQ registering at 71, one point above the cutoff, Hall was deemed eligible for execution by the state.

Florida is one of nine states with a strict IQ cut off of 70,according to the court. But since the Supreme Court ruled in the Atkins decision in 2002 that states cannot execute the mentally incapacitated, the trend has moved away from a fixed IQ standard. States have favored allowing Death Row inmates on the borderline to present other evidence of mental incapacity.

“Every state legislature, save one, to have considered the issue after Atkins and whose law has been interpreted by its courts has taken a position contrary to Florida’s,” said the opinion written by the court’s frequent swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy. His opinion was joined by the four liberal Justices: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Kennedy wrote that someone mentally incapacitated “faces a special risk of wrongful execution because they are more likely to give false confessions, are often poor witnesses, and are less able to give meaningful assistance to their counsel.”

The death penalty may lose its deterrent value, Kennedy wrote, for those with intellectual disability because “they have a diminished ability to “process information, to learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, or to control impulses.”

Justice Samuel Alito, wrote in a dissenting opinion that “the Court’s approach in this case marks a new and most unwise turn in our Eighth Amendment case law.” The Eighth amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Rather than exercising its independent judgment, the court, through the majority opinion, struck down Florida’s law based “on the evolving standards of professional societies, most notably the American Psychiatric Association.”

Florida’s system accounts for errors in IQ testing by considering multiple test scores, Alito noted.

Alito’s opinion received the support of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The case of Hall V. Florida is important, analysts at Scotusblog noted, because 12 years after the court left it to the states to decide when someone was too mentally incapacitate to be executed, the court had set a new standard. The court made clear that states cannot set a rigid standard of an IQ of 70, but it found that the court left unclear whether states could set a fixed score at, say, 75, according to Scotusblog, an award-winning blog chronicling the work of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court returned Hall’s case to the lower courts to determine whether he is eligible for the death penalty.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

JUST IN: Man dead after thrown from I-95 ramp in motorcycle crash
JUST IN: Man dead after thrown from I-95 ramp in motorcycle crash

A 19-year-old is dead after he was thrown from an Interstate 95 ramp when his motorcycle crashed Tuesday night in West Palm Beach, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Jaquari McCormick of West Palm Beach was on the southbound exit ramp to Palm Beach International Airport just before 9:30 p.m. As he drove the 2004 Suzuki on the curved part of the...
Surprise! Wellington cancer survivor, 8, gets day with Astros pitcher
Surprise! Wellington cancer survivor, 8, gets day with Astros pitcher

Drew Dawson got all of it. The toss from Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. smacked off the 8-year-old’s bat up the middle of the field and he was already running. He finished a full sprint rounding the bases with a slide into home and a big smile on his face. McCullers joked that he hung a change-up and Drew’s mother, Tristan Dawson...
NEW: Lake Park man pleads guilty to trying to help ISIS
NEW: Lake Park man pleads guilty to trying to help ISIS

One of three Palm Beach County men charged in July with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges. Dayne Christian, 32, of Lake Park, pleaded guilty in federal court in West Palm Beach to conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, in connection with...
Florida woman refuses to leave Waffle House, asks to go to jail
Florida woman refuses to leave Waffle House, asks to go to jail

Sometimes the Waffle House is so good you just don’t want to leave. According to NWF Daily News, an unnamed 39-year-old Crestview woman argued with a Crestview Police officer when he asked her to leave the restaurant. The woman refused to leave the premises, ignoring the officer’s three requests and forcing him to attempt to escort...
Police identify infant who died due to unknown reasons
Police identify infant who died due to unknown reasons

An infant who was found dead under unknown circumstances was identified Wednesday by Fort Pierce Police. The boy was identified as Aiden Leslie, who was 5 months old. Aiden was taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center unconscious and unresponsive on Sunday night. He was later transported to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he died Tuesday. The...
More Stories