Skip to content

U. S. Supreme Court: Can’t Execute Mentally Disabled

In a Florida case, the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled states can’t simply use an IQ score to determine the mental disability of persons facing the death penalty. The Wall Street Journal reported that in its 5-4 decision the Court found that

Florida’s practice disregarded modern medical standards, which consider an IQ score an imprecise measurement that shouldn’t be viewed in isolation when determining intellectual ability.

The Journal added that the

ruling follows a 2002 Supreme Court holding that said executing intellectually disabled people violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments, and that had defined the condition as an IQ of “approximately 70.”

In the opinion Kentucky and Virginia are singled out as the only two states whose statutes require the 70 IQ score. The Coalition and its partners successfully advocated for passage of a bill in 1990 that ended the death penalty for persons who are mentally disabled. The U. S. Supreme Court used that and the fact other states had done the same in reaching its 2002 conclusion in Atkins.

After passage of Senate Bill 172, sponsored by State Senator Danny Meyer, and signed by Governor Wallace Wilkinson, the KCADP newsletter described how all this came about. Click here to discover why the 70 IQ requirement ended up in Kentucky law.

Photo: Courtesy Death Penalty Information Center