Target: Supreme Court of the United States
Goal: Save mentally disabled inmate from unfair execution
The Supreme Court will soon hear the case of Freddie Lee Hall; a Florida death row inmate convicted of murder. The 68-year-old Hall has been found to have an IQ of 70, making him mentally disabled. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned states from executing criminals proven to be mentally disabled. However, Florida law states that those with an IQ of 70 or over can be executed for capital crime. This is a violation of the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
In 1978, Hall was tried and convicted in the grisly murder of a 21-year-old pregnant woman. His lawyers do not deny his guilt, nor are they arguing that he should not spend a lifetime in prison. However, Hall has been found to be mentally disabled by schools, doctors, and the state since childhood. He has taken nine IQ tests since 1968, with some tests recording a score as low as 60. Most recently, tests have indicated that his IQ is in the low 70s. Many psychologists and psychiatrists testifying for Hall believe that an IQ test alone is insufficient to diagnose intellectual disability, and that through a variety of other tests it could be further determined whether or not he is mentally challenged.
However, the state of Florida holds two separate definitions for mental disability. The state’s regulatory code decrees that anyone with an IQ of 75 or under is eligible and may receive state benefits. Meanwhile, the Florida State Supreme Court has ruled that anyone with an IQ of 70 or above may be executed. The American Psychiatric Association has stated that all IQ tests have a 5-point margin of error, making the state’s distinction meaningless.
Dear United States Supreme Court Justices,
In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, you ruled that mentally disabled inmates could not be executed for their crimes. That to do so would constitute cruel and unusual punishment and be in violation of the 8th amendment. Freddie Lee Hall is mentally disabled according to virtually all devised tests, except the standards of the state of Florida. When you hear his case beginning this Monday, March 3, please uphold the precedent you set in 2002.
I am insisting today that you overturn Freddie Lee Hall’s death sentence, thereby saving a life and clarifying the definition of mental disability for the entire United States criminal justice system. Reverse a punishment imposed by the state of Florida that is not only cruel and unusual, but also self-contradictory.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Kjetil Ree via Wikimedia Commons