Hall v. Florida and Intellectual Disability

Hall v. Florida and Intellectual Disability

On March 3, 2014, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Hall v. Florida. In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of the mentally retarded (now referred to as “intellectual disability) violated the Eighth Amendment. Atkins allowed the states to formulate their own definitions of intellectual disability. What has actually happened is that the states have arrived at their own tests, some based upon accepted psychological standards and some not. Some state place heavy burdens upon the Defendant.

At issue in Hall v. Florida is Florida’s use of a bright line IQ score without the consideration of a standard deviation. Florida’s test takes into account the three standard elements in Atkins, but sets the IQ cut off at an IQ of 70, without consideration of the standard deviation of IQ testing. Such a standard is contrary to accepted clinical standards.

We can only hope that the Supreme Court will restrict the states’ ability to adopt overly restrictive and constitutionally defective standards. Atkins must be clarified to avoid sometimes bizarre and inconsistent standards.