J Kennedy, IQ, Death

Lyle Denniston, Opinion analysis: A new limit on the death penalty, SCOTUSblog (May. 27, 2014, 12:03 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/05/opinion-analysis-a-new-limit-on-the-death-penalty/  “Twelve years after leaving it to the states to decide when an individual convicted of murder was too intellectually incapacitated to be executed, a divided Supreme Court on Tuesday withdrew some of that discretion. The states, the five-to-four majority ruled, cannot use a fixed IQ score as the measure of incapacity to be put to death. “Intellectual incapacity,” the Court said, “is a condition, not a number.” But even the new attempt at guidance may have left some uncertainty. While states were told that they cannot make an IQ test score anywhere above 70 as permission for an individual’s execution, it did say that it was not ruling on whether a state could set the fixed score at 75 or above, and use that alone as the measure. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion for the majority insisted that the Court was not moving the rule of law on executing those who claim intellectual disability very far from where it had left that question twelve years ago in Atkins v. Virginia. But the opinion canvassed the experience of states across the country, and concluded that it was genuine rarity — if not unprecedented except in a very few states — to make anyone eligible for the death penalty based simply on an IQ score above 70. Kennedy was joined in the opinion by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. The main opinion relied heavily upon medical learning about the nature of intellectual disability — the phrase the Court adopted from that community, replacing the traditional phrase it had previously used, “mental retardation.”…

SCOTUSBLOG:  Hall v. Florida No. 12-10882 (U.S. May 27, 2014)  … Holding: 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 submit additional intellectual disability evidence is unconstitutional because it creates an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disabilities will be executed.  JudgmentReversed and remanded, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy on May 27, 2014. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion in which Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas joined.

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