INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY: Determination of Mental Retardation in Florida and Georgia Under Review

On October 21, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a new case, Hall v. Florida (No. 12-10882), to determine whether the Florida Supreme Court properly upheld the death sentence of a man whose IQ is just above the state's standard for mental retardation. According to the state's law, defendants with an IQ above 70 cannot be considered intellectually disabled, even though most states use a broader definition and there is a margin of error in such IQ tests. Freddie Lee Hall's scores on three IQ tests ranged from 71 to 80. A state judge had previously found Hall to be mentally disabled, but the ruling took place before the state passed a law setting the IQ limit. The case will be argued later in the Supreme Court's term. In Georgia, a House committee will hold an out-of-session meeting to examine the state's strict standard for determining mental retardation in capital cases. Defendants are required to prove intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt, the strictest burden of proof in the nation.

In 2002, the Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia banned the execution of inmates with mental retardation, but allowed states to set their own standards in determining mental retardation. Florida is one of nine states with a strict IQ cutoff.

("Ga. to review tough death penalty provision," Associated Press, October 19, 2013; M. Sherman, "High Court to Look at Death Row Inmate With Low IQ," Associated Press, October 21, 2013).  See Intellectual Disability and U.S. Supreme Court.