florida prison

[Above:  Protesters against the death penalty demonstrate in front of the Florida State Prison on September 9, 2009.]

On March 3rd, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Hall v. Florida, a case addressing Florida’s strict standard for intellectual disability that Florida uses to determine if they can execute an inmate.  Under the 2002 Atkins v. Virginia Court decision, it is unconstitutional for individuals with intellectual disabilities to be executed.  The decision left states to develop appropriate procedures to enforce this constitutional rule.  This resulted in a wide-variety of tests in death penalty states.

Unlike most other death penalty states, Florida requires an IQ below 70 be demonstrated without an allowance for any margin of error.  Freddie Lee Hill was previously held to be mentally disabled “his entire life” by Florida courts until the state passed the law setting the IQ limit.  His IQ tests have ranged from 71 to 80, putting him just above the strict 70 requirement to allow him to live.  Hill was first diagnosed with intellectual disabilities in elementary school.  He is still facing execution.

Cornell Law Professor John Blume said, while the issue is specific it is important, “to make clear that states cannot narrow a…ban created by the Supreme Court intended to protect a vulnerable group from wrongful execution.”

 

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