Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My New Verdict Column Previews Hall v. Florida

By Mike Dorf

My latest Verdict column previews Hall v. Florida, which will be argued early next month. The case presents the question of whether Florida's numerical cutoff of an IQ of 70 for proving intellectual disability satisfies the Eighth Amendment. I contend that Florida's argument, if accepted, would substantially undermine the uniformity of federal constitutional law. I'll let the column speak for itself, as it in fact says all I have to say on the topic.


Theo said...

I enjoyed reading your column, but I have an important question re Eighth Amendment jurisprudence: To what extent did the Court rely on "evolving standards of decency" analysis in assessing LWOP for juvenile offenders?

Joe said...

Three justices in a separate opinion in Graham v. Florida noted "evolving standards of decency" played an important (if partial) role in that area:

See also, Miller v. Alabama. Since LWOP for juveniles was accepted in the past, this is not too surprising.

pvine said...

So, Professor Dorf, how should the Court answer the substantive question of what intellectual disability is? What should the national, uniform definition be?

I propose adopting the three-prong definition of (1) deficient intellectual functioning; (2) deficient adoptive functioning; and (3) both with onset before age 18.

Under this definition, IQ test results, including testimony regarding any standard deviation of error of such tests, would be admissible. But a cutoff under which a convicted murderer would automatically be deemed intellectually disabled would be unconstitutional, as would a cutoff above which intellectual disability would conclusively be precluded.

Ultimately, under this definition, the question of intellectual disability would be determined by the trier of fact based upon an assessment of all of the evidence presented, with no particular piece of evidence (such as IQ results) having undue weight as a matter of law.

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