This undated photo made available by the Florida Department of Corrections shows inmate Freddie Lee Hall. Hall. The Supreme Court will hear an appeal on Monday, March 3, 2014 from Hall, a Florida death row inmate who claims he is protected from execution because he is mentally disabled.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court seems likely to say that states can't rely on intelligence test scores alone in borderline cases to determine that a death row inmate is mentally able and thus eligible to be executed.
The justices heard arguments on a snowy Monday in a challenge from a Florida inmate who says there is ample evidence to show he is mentally disabled, even though his most of IQ scores have topped 70.
That score is the widely accepted as a marker of mental disability, but medical professionals say that test results have a margin of error and in any case are just one factor in determining mental disability.
The decisive vote appears to belong to Justice Anthony Kennedy and he repeatedly questioned the state's argument for a rigid cutoff.
Inmate Freddie Lee Hall has scored above 70 on most of the IQ tests he has taken since 1968 but says ample evidence shows he is mentally disabled.
A judge in an earlier phase of the case concluded Hall "had been mentally retarded his entire life." Psychiatrists and other medical professionals who examined him said he is mentally disabled.
As far back as the 1950s, Hall was considered "mentally retarded" - then the commonly accepted term for mental disability - according to school records submitted to the Supreme Court.
He was sentenced to death for murdering Karol Hurst, a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was abducted leaving a Florida grocery store in 1978.
Hall also has been convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy and has been imprisoned for the past 35 years. He served a prison term earlier for assault with intent to commit rape and was out on parole when he killed Hurst.
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