U.S. Supreme Court defining “Mental Retardation in Capital Cases this March

Law.com Wednesday morning announced that ”twelve years after the U.S. Supreme Court held in Atkins v. Virginia that execution of mentally retarded persons violates the Eighth Amendment,  justices will use the case of  Freddie Lee Hall to bring before the Court how states determine who is "intellectually disabled" (now the preferred term for mentally retarded) and whether Florida's test is too narrow. The Court will hear arguments in Hall v. Florida on March 3.

“Most states,” the article says, “have developed appropriate standards, according to death penalty scholars and some national psychological and disability organizations. However, they and Hall argue the justices need to tell Florida and some other states that their tests ignore generally accepted clinical definitions of mental retardation… Florida, ironically, was one of the states to which the Supreme Court looked in finding a national consensus against capital punishment of intellectually disabled persons. In 2001, a year before the Atkins decision, Florida enacted a law prohibiting their execution.”

Florida solicitor general Allen Winsor was quoted as having written that “(the) case turns on whether Atkins truly left any determination to the states or whether, as Hall contends, states are constitutionally bound to vague, constantly evolving—and sometimes contradictory—diagnostic criteria established by organizations committed to expanding Atkins’s reach,"

Hall's lawyer, Eric Pinkard of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel in Tampa position was reported as being that nothing in Atkins "authorizes the states to narrow the substantive scope of the constitutional right itself by defining mental retardation in a way that excludes defendants who qualify for a diagnosis of mental retardation under accepted clinical standards… Yet that is precisely what Florida has done here."

Hall v. Florida, case 12-10882 @ ScotusBlog.com