(picture from azfamily.com)
An unpleasant topic not often discussed is the death penalty. Most people this author has encountered agree that the death penalty should be reserved for more horrible crimes. Beyond that, stances on the death penalty often split into some people being in favor of the death penalty, some people being against it, and many simply not having a stance.
But, regardless of your stance regarding the death penalty, the case of Hall v. Florida has received far too little attention this week.
Backing up a little, in the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case of Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that execution of “mentally retarded” defendants was unconstitutional as it was cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution (to read the full opinion of Atkins v. Virginia, click here).
As framed by constitutional scholar John Blume, the issue now before the Supreme Court in the 2014 case of Hall v. Florida is
[W]hether persons who have been clinically diagnosed with mental retardation (now commonly referred to as intellectual disability) can nevertheless be put to death if they cannot satisfy the rigid IQ test score cutoff of 70 established by the Florida Supreme Court—a cutoff clearly inconsistent with the commonly agreed upon definition of mental retardation embraced by the Court in its 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia which all but a handful of outlier states use.
From this author’s experiences in the legal profession, the handling of “mentally retarded” or “intellectually disabled” individuals in the legal system is a complicated issue for which there is not yet always an adequate answer. While, as pointed out by Mr. Blume, most states do not utilize Florida’s method for defining mental retardation, the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case should still be carefully watched as it has the potential to affect the rights of many defendants of questionable intellectual disability in capital punishment cases.
The author of TNLawyerLee is Nicholas W. Lee, Esq., an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you or someone you know need an attorney, please click here for Mr. Lee’s contact information and contact him today for a free consultation. Also, please feel free to visit Mr. Lee’s website, www.TNLawyerLee.com or follow his page on Facebook for updates as to his law practice or new posts to TNLawyerLee by clicking here.
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