68-year old Freddie Lee Hall, a Florida inmate convicted in 1978 for murdering a 21-year old pregnant woman, believes that he is safe from the death penalty because he is mentally disabled. Now the Supreme court is debating his appeal, raising more questions about how states should evaluate claims of mental disability.
In case you didn't know, the Supreme Court in 2002 barred states from executing the mentally disabled. But the court has since left it to the states to set their own rules in determining who should be executed.
Florida, for example, decided that criminals having intelligence test scores higher than 70 are eligible for dealth penalty. In Freddie Lee Hall's case, he averaged above 70 on IQ tests he has taken since 1968.
But Hall argues that he is mentally disabled. A judge previously concluded that Hall had been mentally retarded all his life. Psychiatrists who previously examined Hall also declared him to be mentally disabled, but added that IQ tests alone are not enough to prove that he is truly mentally disabled.
Medical professionals said that accurate diagnosis must also include evaluating an individual's ability to function in society, along with finding that the mental disability began in childhood.
On Monday, five justices expressed their doubts about Florida's practice of barring inmates from claiming mental disability if their IQ score is above 70.
But Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out that Hall's crime was brutal and that he took strategic steps to abduct the victim. Scalia also noted that Hall didn't raise a claim of mental disability in his first 10 years at prison.
Scalia also criticized the American Psychiatric Association. "They change their mind, counsel. This APA is the same organization that once said that homosexuality was a mental disability and now says it's perfectly normal," he said.