Liptak, A. (2014, Mar 04). Justices hear florida case on measuring inmates’ mental disabilities. New York Times.
“A majority of the Supreme Court seemed skeptical on Monday of how Florida decides who is eligible to be spared the death penalty on account of intellectual disabilities. The state uses an I.Q. of 70 as a rigid cutoff, and several justices suggested that it should take account of a standard margin of error or consider additional factors.
Other justices seemed inclined to allow Florida and other states to decide for themselves how to determine who is “mentally retarded” and so ineligible for execution under the court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia.
The Atkins decision gave states substantial discretion and only general guidance. It said a finding of intellectual disability requires 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 intellectual disability.
As Monday’s argument progressed, it became clear that what divided the two groups of justices was more than the particular case. Their disagreement was a larger one about the role of scholarly and professional expertise in the resolution of legal disputes…”
SCOTUSblog: HALL v. FLORIDA Index Site.
Argued March 3, 2014.
“Issue: Whether the Florida scheme for identifying mentally retarded defendants in capital cases violates Atkins v. Virginia.”
SCOTUSblog – Argument analysis: When simplicity won’t do
By Lyle Denniston (Mar 3, 2014)
“Analysis: If a state, trying to make it simple to decide who can be given a death sentence, opts for a choice that looks arbitrary, it is likely to have a difficult time in a Supreme Court that worries about the chances of error. That was demonstrated anew on Monday, when Florida found itself in deep Eighth Amendment trouble with a rule that anyone with an IQ above 70 can be executed if convicted of murder.
A quite definite majority of the Justices — perhaps, notably, including Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — left little doubt that Florida and six other states will not be allowed to maintain an automatic test-score-based cutoff for those who could qualify as mentally retarded and thus can escape the death penalty…” [restofstory]