U.S. top court rules for Florida death row inmate over IQ test

WASHINGTON Tue May 27, 2014 12:53pm EDT

1 of 2. Death row inmate, Freddie Lee Hall, is seen in this undated handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Florida Department of Corrections

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a death sentence for a Florida man in a decision that found the state's method for assessing whether defendants are mentally disabled was unconstitutional.

The court ruled on a 5-4 vote, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion, that death row inmate Freddie Lee Hall should have another chance to show he should not be executed.

Florida had initially determined that convicted murderer Hall was mentally disabled in 1992, but later found him competent after he scored 71 on an IQ test, the minimum under Florida law.

The court found that the Florida process was unlawful under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans cruel and unusual punishment.

"Florida's law contravenes our nation's commitment to dignity and its duty to teach human decency as the mark of a civilized world," Kennedy wrote.

The decision, which follows a 2002 ruling in which the high court said the mentally disabled cannot be executed, could also help other inmates in Florida and some other states who are challenging their sentences.

The case is Hall v. Florida, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-10882.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Dan Grebler)

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Comments (5)
People who are disabled, poor or mentally challenged are spat upon by republicans. This is short sighted. If inequality becomes too top heavy, insurrection will result.

May 27, 2014 11:17am EDT  --  Report as abuse
REnninga wrote:
5 to 4 decisions by the US Supreme Court are troubling, and unpersuasive to Americans. And yet these 5 to 4 splits are now the norm, and are changing the fabric of our society in a way which is undermining American’s confidence in, and respect for the Court.

Not only has the nation’s highest court become ideologically polarized, but it has become downright lazy. The Justices of the Supreme Court should work just as hard to reach unanimous, or near unanimous decisions, by meeting and debating and persuading one-another, as is asked of each of us as individual citizens when we are empaneled on a jury.

May 27, 2014 2:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
euro-yank wrote:
@REnninga – while I agree with your sentiment, I wonder how we expect the Supreme Court to be any less split that the rest of American society?

May 27, 2014 4:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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