This week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s strict IQ cutoff for determining intellectual disability and in turn eligibility for the death penalty.
In a 5-4 ruling in Hall v. Florida the court concluded that Florida’s rigid IQ threshold of 70 “disregards established medical practice” and creates the “unacceptable risk” that an inmate with intellectual disabilities might be executed, in violation of the Constitution.
“Our society does not consider this strict cutoff as proper or humane,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
“No legitimate penological purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disability,” Kennedy wrote. “To impose the harshest of punishments on an intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being.”
It is interesting that Kennedy would refer to the petitioner’s inherent right of “dignity.” The term is not frequently used in American jurisprudence and the term is even more difficult to find in Supreme Court opinions.