U.S. Supreme Court: IQ Test Isn’t Enough To Determine Disability Before Execution

May 28, 2014

Credit Wally Gobetz

The U.S. Supreme Court says Florida isn’t doing enough to ensure the prisoners it executes aren’t suffering from mental disabilities. Florida officials use an IQ test to help identify a person’s mental acuity. Under the state law, a person who scores above a 70 on that test could be executed. But Seth Waxman, who is representing Freddie Hall, a Florida death row inmate in the case, says the state’s rules are too ridged.

“If a state conditions the opportunity to demonstrate mental retardation on obtained IQ test scores, it cannot ignore the measurement error that is inherent in those scores.”

Waxman says because of that margin of error, a person who is disabled could score as high as a 75 on the test the state uses. His client, Hall, scored a 71 on the test. The U.S. Supreme court overturned a Florida Supreme Court decision with a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, saying the state must consider factors beyond the test score when determining an inmate’s intellectual disability.