A person who has an IQ of less than 70 could be considered mentally disabled, but should that protect them from execution over a heinous crime?
The Supreme Court is taking that argument into consideration with the recent appeal from a Florida death row prisoner, who contends that he is protected from execution due to mental disabilities.
The case is being argued Monday at the court centers on how authorities determine who is eligible to be put to death, 12 years after the justices prohibited the execution of the mentally disabled.
Previously, this touchy subject has been mostly left to the states to set the rules for their interpretation of who is mentally disabled. Florida and some other states say that anyone who scores higher than 70 on an IQ test is not mentally disabled, even if there are other circumstances that say they are.
And what is to keep the inmate from flubbing an IQ test to relieve him/herself of execution?
The person in question, the Florida death row inmate Freddie Lee Hall, has scored above 70 on most of the IQ tests he has taken since 1968 but says there is sufficient evidence that proves he is mentally disabled.
A judge in an earlier phase of the case concluded Hall "had been mentally retarded his entire life." Psychiatrists and other medical professionals who examined him said he is mentally disabled.
As far back as the 1950s, Hall was considered "mentally retarded".
But the crime he committed caused him to be sentenced to death. It was for the murder of Karol Hurst, a 21-year-old pregnant woman, who was abducted leaving a Florida grocery store in 1978.
Hall was also convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy and has been imprisoned for the past 35 years. He served a previous prison term for assault with intent to commit rape and was released and on parole when he killed Hurst.
It is evident that Hall is guilty, and that is not the question posed to the court. Should he be executed if he is legally considered mentally disabled or retarded?
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state law regarding executions and mental disability has no wiggle room if an inmate tests above 70, however, psychiatrists and others supporting Hall have argued that an IQ test is not always 100 percent accurate and there are other considerations, such as their function in society and mental ability as a youth.
The Supreme Court has a big decision on their hands.
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