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Florida’s IQ Exam Fails Test Of Justice

Memo Pad National News

Florida’s IQ Exam Fails Test Of Justice


The last thing we’d want to do is thin out Death Row, where inmates currently spend an average of about 25 years appealing their sentences, at enormous taxpayer expense.

Some will say it’s just as immoral to lock up a mentally disabled person for life as it is to execute him, but nothing can excuse the crimes that Freddie Lee Hall took part in. He belongs in prison forever.

And that would be his certain future, if only he’d gotten one or two problems wrong on his IQ test, scoring a 70 instead of a 71. It’s like a twisted Comedy Central sketch — if you pass the exam, you die.

Florida authorities seem concerned that some inmates who aren’t really mentally disabled will be able to dodge lethal injection if the law is made more flexible.

However, the high court’s 2002 ruling requires not only an extremely low IQ, but also a demonstrable lack of practical and social skills — and proof that both conditions existed before the defendant turned 18.

It’s not an easy scam to pull off. In Hall’s case the evidence of his lifelong impairment was overwhelming and fully acknowledged by the same court that re-sentenced him to death in 1991.

Not that the radical inconsistency in capital punishment cases needs highlighting, but consider what happened to Hall’s cohort in the kidnap and murder of Karol Hurst.

Mack Ruffin — the one with the normal IQ and no brain damage — got his death sentence reduced to life in prison.

Fourteen years ago.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

Photo: javacolleen via Flickr

Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen is an award-winning journalist, commentator, and novelist. Hiaasen has worked for the Miami Herald since 1976, and his writing focuses on environmental and corruption issues in his home state of Florida.

His latest book is Skink—No Surrender (2014).

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  1. Dominick Vila March 11, 2014

    The death penalty, an act of revenge that is condoned, planned, and executed by society is the ultimate manifestation of brutality and violence. Those found guilty of heinous crimes should spend the rest of their lives in jail, either doing hard labor or in solitary confinement. A tooth for a tooth makes those who pretend to act on the side of justice just as guilty as the ones they execute. A cursory review of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, and the example established by prophets such as Christ is in order.

    1. CPAinNewYork March 12, 2014

      You’re wrong on this one. The death penalty enables us to get rid of the vicious garbage that commits homicides. Whether they’re truly vicious or just weak minded, it doesn’t matter. Hammurabi had it right.

  2. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh March 11, 2014

    Even though I am one of the loudest liberals on this blog, I do believe there are some cases that warrant the Death Penalty. However, I also believe that certain individuals, because of their circumstances should be excluded from that penalty. Freddy Lee Hall is one of those individuals. Stephen Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevski of CT are not. Hall was easily led to do what he did. Hayes and Komisarjevski made their own conscious choices.

    1. Michael Ross March 11, 2014

      These are my sentiments. I reserve the death penalty for instances only when two requirements have been met:

      #1: The perpetrator can be confirmed 100% to be guilty (caught on camera, over a dozen witnesses, etc.).
      #2: The perpetrator continues to be a danger to prison staff and inmates.

      I only consider it more humane to execute someone than to keep others locked up with someone liable to murder them.

      This, on the other hand, can only be attributed to nimrod politics. Whenever liberals insist that someone shouldn’t be put to death, nine times out of ten, that will just make the opposition even more determined to execute him because they want to boast that they’re tough on crime.

      But like Hiaasen already noted: They granted mercy to the one who wasn’t mentally retarded. If they can be merciful to the guy who clearly DID know better, they can give it to his low-IQ accomplice as well.

      1. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh March 11, 2014

        Michael, Florida appears to be a fairly vindictive State. A number of years ago a close friend of mine was found guilty of 1st Degree murder down there. Here is the rub. He thought he was hired to negotiate a settlement between parties. The guy who hired him was actually hired to put a hit on one of the principals. That guy turned state’s evidence for total immunity from prosecution. So, even though my friend should have only been accused of accessory after the fact, due to the arcane system known as Florida Criminal Justice, he was charged with the same level of crime as the guy who contracted the killer. And this was even after the actual killer admitted that my friend was not involved with the planning or the murder, but was “brought along for the ride”! Gotta love Florida’s (lack of) Justice System.
        Then, don’t forget. They also have their alternative Death Penalty program called “Stand your Ground”!

      2. plc97477 March 12, 2014

        I would like to add one more requirement (3) person can never be allowed around society again because there are too many cases where people have been released on accident.

        1. CPAinNewYork March 12, 2014

          If we execute the murderers, we don’t have to worry about their being released back into society.

      3. CPAinNewYork March 12, 2014

        What pseudo-intellectual crap! If a piece of garbage commits murder, he or she should pay the ultimate price. Period.

        And what is it with your talk about “humane” executions? Did the murderers act “humanely” when they killed their victims? No! So, why should they receive “humane” executions? Personally, I favor public hangings.

  3. docb March 11, 2014

    Cruel and unusual punishment brought to you by the low information faux ‘christian’ repubs as usual!

    1. CPAinNewYork March 12, 2014

      You are an idiot.

  4. dpaano March 11, 2014

    The State of Florida had a serious problem…..but this is only ONE of them!

    1. old_blu March 11, 2014


  5. Daniel Jones March 11, 2014

    The bottom line here is that they intend to be hard on the man that can’t be presentable. They also want to look tough on crime, so they’re gonna kill him.

    This is a sick, dysfunctional penal/legal system that contradicts itself even at the highest levels — https://www.nationalmemo.com/adegbiles-denied-confirmation-affront-principles/ ring any bells? –so this is just business as usual, I’m afraid.

    1. CPAinNewYork March 12, 2014

      Daniel, you’re a good example of the pseudo-intellectual thinking that seems to permeate the liberal community.

  6. John Kenner March 13, 2014

    As the amount of knowledge grows with civilization’s advance, the smaller the fraction of knowledge that our own mind can absorb and the more relatively ignorant each of us becomes.


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