Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Supreme Court rejects Florida's bright-line mental disability test

A Florida law that sets an IQ test score of 70 as a minimum in determining who's eligible for the death penalty is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court says. In a reversal of a state court's decision, the justices say Florida's rule ignores norms in the psychiatric profession, reported NPR. The opinion also cites the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.
"Florida set a hard-line rule that the death penalty could not be imposed on convicted felons whose IQ is 70 or below," NPR's Washington desk says in its summary of the case.
The plaintiff, Florida death row inmate Freddie Lee Hall, was found to have an IQ score of 71. Arguing before the court in March, his attorney noted that all such tests have a standard risk of error.
The case centered on the question of whether absolute rules such as the one in Florida give enough protection that was established by an earlier case, Atkins v. Virginia. In that case, the justices said it was unconstitutional to execute people who are mentally disabled, but they left open the question of how to determine that condition.
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