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