The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider taking another step toward limiting the use of the death penalty, this time by trying to clarify the legal standard for who is ineligible for the ultimate punishment because of mental disability, reports the LA Times.
“At issue is whether states such as Florida may disqualify anyone who scores above 70 on an IQ test. A score below 70 generally indicates mental disability.
“The justices agreed to hear the case of Freddie Hall, a Florida death row inmate who killed two people in 1978, but who was described as mentally disabled when he was a child and was deemed to be mentally retarded by the judge who sentenced him to die. Three years ago, Florida prosecutors said Hall had scored a 71 on a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale test and therefore could be executed for his crimes. At other times he scored 73 and 80.
“His case figures to be the most important death penalty dispute decided during this court term. During the last decade, the court has limited the use of the death penalty by excluding those who were younger than 18 at the time of the crime or who suffered from a significant mental disability. But until now, the court has not intervened to clarify who qualifies for an exemption based on a mental disability. “It’s been 11 years, and this issue is still not settled,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.