Con: Jury should determine mental deficiency based on entire evidence

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Nov. 3, 2013 at 5:03 a.m.
Updated Nov. 4, 2013 at 5:04 a.m.

Texas best determines whether a defendant is mentally disabled because it does not solely rely on an IQ test, according to a Crossroads district attorney.

"Tests can be gamed, and other factors can effect test scores," so jurors look at the whole picture, said Michael Sheppard, the district attorney for Refugio, DeWitt and Goliad counties.

"For instance, if a defendant who has a 70 IQ commits a home invasion robbery, kills all the witnesses so no one can testify, wears gloves so as not to leave any prints and fabricates an alibi that is later debunked by police, how can a conscientious person find that he really was not capable of understanding the evil of his actions?" Sheppard said.

While there are instances in which executing a low-functioning person should be prohibited because to do so would morally wrong, Sheppard said, he believes an intervention by judicial or legislative branches could undermine the jury process.

"Using arbitrary standards will result in injustice, not justice," he said.

Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell considers himself to be a state's rights man. He also thought Texas determines mental retardation best because it goes further than IQ test and there are multiple hearings.

"If someone on death row knows they must score below a 70, don't you think there might be a motivation for them to have a low IQ? For that test, you would know how to answer the questions to where you're not getting them right," he said.

Florida Senior Assistant Attorney General Kenneth S. Nunnelley wrote in court documents that death penalty inmate Freddie Lee Hall's case is unworthy of the U.S. Supreme Court justices' attention because it does not answer an unresolved federal question.

Justices never ruled that states should adopt a clinical definition of mental deficiency, so Florida's definition of mental deficiency is fair, he wrote.

A jury was convinced of Hall's guilt because it heard evidence he and a co-defendant drove to a wooded area where they would not be seen murdering the woman, which required planning.

In the end, "Hall's petition is no more than his request for this court to interpret Florida law in a manner helpful to him," Nunnelley wrote.

PRO: Supreme Court should set IQ standard with additional training



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