Monday, June 22, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court rules yet again on intellectual disability and capital punishment

The Supreme Court ruled last week that a Louisiana judge “unreasonably” denied a death row inmate a hearing to determine if he has an intellectual disability that would prevent him from being executed, reported
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that our “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” prohibits executing those with intellectual disabilities.
Kevan Brumfield pointed to evidence that his IQ is 75, “had a fourth-grade reading level, had been prescribed numerous medications and treated at psychiatric hospitals as a child, had been identified as having a learning disability, and had been placed in special education classes.”
At the time of his original trial, those with intellectual disabilities were still permitted to be executed.
Not every death row inmate has a hearing on their mental capabilities. In order to get a hearing on the issue, the condemned inmate has to raise “reasonable doubt” about the person’s intellectual capacity. A Louisiana court decided that Brumfield didn’t meet the requirements for a hearing to examine his mental capabilities.  The U.S. Supreme Court in Brumfield v. Cain called that finding “unreasonable.”
Last year, in Hall v. Florida the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's threshold requirement, as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, that defendants show an IQ test score of 70 or below before being permitted to have a hearing on intellectual disability was unconstitutional.
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