In 1982, Freddie Lee Hall was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the state of Florida. Mr. Hall appealed this decision, based on his assertion that he is mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court previously held in 2002 that the execution of mentally retarded individuals violated the Eighth Amendment, barring cruel and unusual punishment (Atkins v. Virginia, 2002).
The State of Florida asserts that Mr. Hall’s IQ was tested and found to be above 70, which was the cutoff set by the state in determining mental retardation in these cases.
After moving through the appeals process in Florida, the case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, with the following primary issue:
Does the Florida scheme for identifying mentally retarded defendants in capital cases violate the decision in Atkins v. Virginia?
The American Psychological Association filed a brief in support of Mr. Hall; their assertion is that the diagnosis of intellectual disability (the new diagnosis described in DSM-5 which replaced mental retardation) requires comprehensive assessment and the application of clinical judgment, rather than basing the decision solely on an IQ score. Of note, a major change in the DSM-5 in the diagnosis of intellectual disability is a de-emphasis on IQ testing.
Arguments for this case were held on March 3rd, 2014. Stay tuned for further developments and the U.S. Supreme Court decision later this summer.
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