U.S. Supreme Court

When does mental disability prevent execution? SCOTUS to consider Florida IQ standard

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether Florida’s standard for determining mental disability complies with the high court’s 2002 decision barring execution of the mentally retarded.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert in Hall v. Florida this morning, SCOTUSblog reports. The case is an appeal by Freddie Lee Hall, whose IQ was set at 71, just above Florida’s bright-line standard, according to the cert petition (PDF). The state does not consider an individual to be mentally retarded unless he or she has an IQ of 70 or below, the petition says.

At issue is whether Florida’s standard complies with the 2002 Supreme Court decision Atkins v. Virginia, which held that execution of the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment.

The cert petition notes that a previous IQ test found Hall had an IQ of 60, but he became “unretarded” after a second test. “The state of Florida cannot by decree make a cow a chicken, nor can it make standardized IQ results more precise than the inventors of those tests say is reasonable,” the petition says.

“While this court granted the states leeway in crafting appropriate methods to enforce the constitutional restriction against execution of the mentally retarded, … it did not grant the authority for a state to create out of thin air a definition of mental retardation which undoubtedly will fail to identify mentally retarded capital defendants.”

The cert petition cites evidence that Hall suffers from organic brain damage and mental illness, and was abused by his mother and neighbors.

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