Intellectual Disability and Death Penalty

Hall v. State, 41 Fla. L. Weekly 372 (2016)

On remand from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hall v. Florida, Florida Supreme Court finds that Hall meets the clinical, statutory, and constitutional requirements to establish that Hall’s intellectual disability precludes his being executed for the murders he committed.

Background: Freddie Lee Hall was convicted of murder in 1978 and his conviction and sentence were upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in 1981. After numerous appeals, Hall’s case received cert to the U.S. Supreme Court on a claim that Florida’s requirement that an inmate show an IQ test score of 70 or below before presenting any additional evidence of intellectual disability violated the Eighth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case for a determination of Hall’s intellectual disability. 

Holding: The Florida Supreme Court found that despite Hall’s IQ test scores above 70, he met the clinical definition of intellectually disabled based on evidence of organic brain damage, mental illness, and records indicating low intellectual ability. The court reversed the order of the circuit court denying post-conviction relief, vacated Hall’s death sentence, and imposed a life sentence.

Notable Point:

Age of onset for intellectual disability: The court reiterated that Florida statute requires only that intellectual disability be demonstrated to have manifested prior to age 18, not that it be diagnosed prior to age 18.

Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 3