More than a decade after the Supreme Court ruled that the states that practice the death penalty should spare the mentally impaired, the justices will take up a case that may lead to a clearer defining of who falls into the category and who does not.
The justices will consider the case of Freddie Lee Hall, who is to be executed in Florida. Hall has an IQ of 71, and under state law a person who scores over 70 is not considered mentally impaired and is therefore fit for execution.
Addressing the issue in 2002, the Supreme Court said “death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal”. It left it “to the State[s] the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce” the restriction. Opponents of the death penalty hope the Court will set a clearer benchmark that may lead to fewer executions.