Florida says the man does not score below its 70-point IQ cutoff line for death penalty cases, but the Supreme Court has decided to consider whether his execution would be cruel and unusual.
The US Supreme Court agreed on Monday to examine whether a Florida death-row inmate suffers from a mental deficiency significant enough to render his pending execution cruel and unusual.
Freddie Lee Hall has been on death row since 1981. There is no doubt that he suffers from severe mental deficiencies. He has been diagnosed with a variety of impairments, including chronic psychosis and a learning disability that left him functionally illiterate with a short-term memory equivalent to a first grader’s.
According to experts in Florida, Mr. Hall has a low IQ, but it is not below the state’s bright-line cutoff of 70, below which the state considers defendants in capital cases to be mentally retarded and exempt from execution.
Hall’s lawyer, Eric Pinkard of Capital Collateral Regional Counsel in Tampa, disputes the conclusion that his client is not mentally retarded.
In his appeal, he is challenging the procedure used by Florida to determine IQ and mental retardation. He says mental health experts should determine a range of IQ scores rather than one particular IQ number.
Ultimately the question in the case is whether Hall’s mental deficiency is so significant that he is unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. If so, his execution by the state would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment under a 2002 Supreme Court precedent.