Supreme Court to revisit death penalty for mentally disabled. USATODAY. Maggie Clark, Pew/Stateline Staff Writer, December 6, 2013.
“How should states decide if someone convicted of a crime has an intellectual disability, when the answer means life or death? This spring the Supreme Court will wade back into these murky waters, 12 years after it took the death penalty off the table for criminals with mental disabilities but left the details to the states.
In its 6-3 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, authored by Justice John Paul Stevens, the court prohibited states from executing anyone with “mental retardation.” Mental health professionals define it as substantial limitations in intellectual functions such as reasoning or problem-solving, limitations in adaptive behavior or “street smarts,” and evidence of the condition before age 18. (Mental retardation is the term used in law, but most clinicians and The Associated Press refer to the condition as intellectual disability.)
After the decision, most states stuck with the three-pronged clinical definition, but Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas set their own standards. Under Florida’s law, if you have an IQ over 70, you’re eligible for execution regardless of intellectual function or adaptive behavior.
Freddie Lee Hall, who has been on Florida’s death row for more than 30 years and scored in the mid-70s on IQ tests, is arguing the state’s standard amounts to unconstitutional punishment…”