Eric Pinkard, an attorney representing Freddie Hass has issued this statement:
“Today’s decision ensures that Florida cannot evade the Supreme Court’s landmark 2002 Atkins v. Virginia ruling that persons with intellectual disability are protected from execution. In Hall v. Florida, the Court has recognized that “[i]ntellectual disability is a condition, not a number” and that consequently Florida cannot ignore the standard error of measurement inherent in all IQ tests. Slip op. 21. In the words of the Court, Florida’s current law, with its rigid IQ cutoff of 70, “contravenes our Nation’s commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world.” Slip op. 22.
‘Consistent with universal statistical principles and clinical practice, Florida must now take the standard error of measurement into account in determining whether a defendant satisfies the clinical definition of intellectual disability and is thus protected from execution under Atkins. Specifically, “when a defendant’s IQ test score falls within the test’s acknowledged and inherent margin of error, the defendant must be able to present additional evidence of intellectual disability, including testimony regarding adaptive deficits.” Slip op. 21.;
‘Today the Court has ensured that Florida will honor the Court’s judgment in Atkins that persons with intellectual disability are constitutionally protected from execution.”
The New York Times posts, "Court Rules Against Florida I.Q. Rule in Death Cases," by Adam Liptak.
The Atkins decision gave states only general guidance. It said a finding of mental retardation required proof of three things: “subaverage intellectual functioning,” meaning low I.Q. scores; a lack of fundamental social and practical skills; and the presence of both conditions before age 18. The court said I.Q. scores under “approximately 70” typically indicate retardation
A Florida law enacted not long before the Atkins decision created what Mr. Hall’s lawyers called an “inflexible bright-line cutoff” requiring proof of an I.Q. of 70 or below. In 2012, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Hall was eligible to be executed because his I.Q. had been measured at various times as 71, 73 and 80.
That approach, Justice Kennedy wrote, had at least two flaws. One was that it failed to take account of standard errors of measurement. “An individual’s score is best understood as a range of scores on either side of the recorded scores,” he wrote.
The second problem, he said, was that a rigid cutoff excludes consideration of other evidence. “Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number,” he wrote.
"Justices rule for death row inmates with low IQ," is the updated AP report filed by Mark Sherman.
Tuesday's decision came in the case of 68-year-old Freddie Lee Hall. Lawyers for Hall said there is ample evidence to show that he is mentally disabled, even though most of his multiple IQ tests have yielded scores topping 70. Hall has been on death row for more than 35 years since being convicted of murdering a pregnant 21-year-old woman in 1978.
In nine tests administered between 1968 and 2008, Hall scored as low as 60 and as high as 80, with his most recent scores between 69 and 74, according to the state.
A judge in an earlier phase of the case concluded Hall "had been mentally retarded his entire life." Psychiatrists and other medical professionals who examined him said he is mentally disabled.
As far back as the 1950s, Hall was considered "mentally retarded" - then the commonly accepted term for mental disability - according to school records submitted to the Supreme Court.
"Supreme Court Gives Intellectually Disabled Individuals Greater Protection From Death Penalty," is by Jess Bravin for the Wall Street Journal.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave intellectually disabled defendants greater protection from the death penalty, ruling in a case from Florida that states may not use a rigid IQ score of 70 as the cutoff for execution.
Writing for a 5-4 court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Florida's practice disregarded modern medical standards, which consider an IQ score an imprecise measurement that shouldn't be viewed in isolation when determining intellectual ability.
Justice Kennedy said that when an IQ score falls within the "standard error of measurement," the defendant should be entitled to present additional evidence at sentencing regarding his intellectual deficits.
Justice Kennedy modified the 2002 decision in another way: He adopted the term "intellectually disabled" and abandoned "mentally retarded," which has previously been used by the court in its opinions. Intellectually disabled refers to individuals with limited intellectual and adaptive capabilities, according to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and the term is preferred by the medical profession.
"Supreme Court strikes Florida law on intellectually disabled death row inmates," is by Robert Barnes of the Washington Post.
The court ruled 5 to 4 that state laws that draw a bright line on IQ-test results are unconstitutional. Under those laws, an inmate who scores above 70 on the test cannot be considered intellectually disabled and cannot present evidence that he or she should not be executed.
Florida, Virginia and Kentucky have such laws, and a handful of others have similar rules. It was the court’s first consideration of state laws defining mental retardation in capital cases since its 2002 decision that executing the mentally retarded violated the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s liberals in Tuesday’s ruling , and said laws imposing a strict IQ test run counter to a unanimous verdict in the medical community that such scores are imprecise.
Reuters posts, "U.S. top court rules for Florida death row inmate over IQ test," by Lawrence Hurley.
"Florida's law contravenes our nation's commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world," Kennedy wrote.
The decision, which follows a 2002 ruling in which the high court said the mentally disabled cannot be executed, could also help other inmates in Florida and some other states who are challenging their sentences.
The ABA Journal posts, "Supreme Court strikes down Florida’s bright-line IQ threshold for death-penalty eligibility," by Debra Cassens Weiss.
"No legitimate penological purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability," Kennedy wrote. "To do so contravenes the Eighth Amendment, for to impose the harshest of punishments on an intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being."
A death sentence doesn’t serve the goal of deterrence because the mentally disabled are “likely unable to make the calculated judgments" that their conduct could result in execution, Kennedy said. In addition, "the diminished capacity of the intellectually disabled lessens moral culpability and hence the retributive value of the punishment."
Kennedy also said that withholding the death penalty for the mentally disabled protects the trial process. The mentally disabled are more likely to give false confessions, to be poor witnesses, and to be less able to assist defense counsel, the opinion said.
"Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Setting Strict I.Q. Limit for Execution," by Pete Williams and Tracy Connor of NBC News.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the court's opinion, said the experts who design, give, and interpret IQ tests say the test reveals only a range — that a person's IQ may be five points above or below the test score.
That means Hall could actually have an IQ of between 66 and 76. For that reason, the court held, he must be allowed to present evidence of his intellectual disability, including deficits in functioning over his lifetime.
The Florida Times-Union reports, "U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Florida's IQ requirement in appealing executions," by Larry Hannan and Andrew Pantazi.
The decision does not mean Hall will not face execution. Instead it means Hall will be allowed to present evidence of a possible intellectual disability in court.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office, which defended the IQ score requirement in court, said they were reviewing the decision.
"Supreme Court: States (including Alabama) must look beyond low IQ before imposing death sentence," is by Charles J. Dean at AL.com
The decision, reached in a case from Florida, will impact Alabama where an IQ score of 70 and above is the threshold used by the state to determine if a convicted murder is eligible for the death penalty.
The Supreme Court ruling in Hall v. Florida is available in Adobe .pdf format.
Earlier coverage of the Florida case begins at the link.