Supreme Court to consider executing the mentally disabled

March 2, 2014 at 3:46 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- Whether a state can execute a mentally deficient inmate comes up before the U.S. Supreme Court this week in a case that has widespread implications.

Freddie Lee Hall, 68, has faced execution in Florida for murder for half his life, but has been mentally retarded for "his entire life," the court which resentenced him to death in 1991 said.

The Supreme Court is scheduled Monday to consider if that diagnosis is enough to spare his life in light of the court's 2002 ruling prohibiting the death penalty for "mental retardation," now called intellectual disabilities.

The ruling could impact future cases by identifying exactly what the court meant when it prohibited the execution of the mentally retarded without defining the meaning of the term, USA Today said Sunday.

Since the 2002 ruling, several hundred claims of mental retardation have been filed by death row prisoners, or about 7 percent of all cases, said Cornell University law professor John Blume, adding more than 100 sentences have been reduced, a 28 percent success rate.

The opposite fate may befall Hall, the newspaper said, noting Florida, with Alabama, Virginia and Kentucky, impose a strict numerical cutoff for IQ tests, without considering what is referred to as a standard error of measurement.

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