Should an IQ Score Be a Death Sentence?

Freddie Lee Hall has been on Florida's Death Row for the past 36 years.

Sentenced to death on June 27, 1978 for a brutal double-murder, the 69-year-old Hall has exhausted decades of legal appeals relating to his mental capacity at the time of his crimes.   Though the 1978 sentence was later vacated, Hall was re-sentenced to death in 1991.  While the judge at the time acknowledged that Hall was "mentally retarded", that was deemed to be "unquantifiable" in whether he should be executed. Since the 2002 Atkins v. Virginia decision bans people diagnosed as intellectually disabled from being executed, Florida, as well as several other U.S. states, establishes the legal cutoff score for a diagnosis of intellectual disability as being an IQ of 70  (70 is two standard deviations below the mean score of 100).  Since then, the use of intelligence testing for inmates facing execution has taken on a lethal importance. In Hall's case, numerous IQ tests administered over the years have yielded scores ranging from 60 to 80 although he has been assigned a final score of 71.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.


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