Does Florida’s use of a cutoff IQ to establish mental retardation violate Atkins v. Virginia’s ruling that executing mentally retarded criminals violates the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “cruel and unusual” punishment?
The state of Florida sentenced Freddie Lee Hall to death on September 9, 1982 for murdering Karol Hurst. Hall challenged his sentence multiple times, and the Florida state courts vacated and reinstated the sentence each time. During one resentencing trial, the court found Hall to be mentally retarded. At an evidentiary hearing to determine his mental competence, the court found that Hall’s IQ exceeded the minimum cut-off for mental retardation in Florida. Hall’s most recent challenge therefore involves the 2002 Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which held that executing mentally retarded criminals violates their Eighth Amendment right against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Hall argues that Florida’s measure of mental retardation, which uses an IQ score cutoff, violates Atkins, and that Atkins prohibits Florida from executing him. Florida argues that the state’s definition of mental retardation complies with Atkins. In turn, the state asserts that under its definition of mental retardation, Hall can be executed. This case could determine whether Florida can execute Hall and, more broadly, states’ ability to establish standards for mental retardation based on IQ testing.
Whether the Florida scheme for identifying mentally retarded defendants in capital cases violates Atkins v. Virginia.
On September 9, 1982, the governor of Florida signed Freddie Lee Hall's death warrant for the murder of Karol Hurst, after Hall was tried and convicted in Putnam County and the Florida Supreme Court upheld the conviction. See Hall v. State, 109 So. 3d 704, 705–706 (Fla. 2012). After his appeals to the Florida state courts failed, Hall filed an appeal in federal court. See id.
- New York Times, Adam Liptak, Justices Return to a Death Penalty Issue, (October 21 2013)
- Huffington Post, Mark Sherman, Supreme Court to Review Case of Mentally Disabled Death Row Inmate Freddie Lee Hall, (October 21, 2013)