Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hall v Florida SCOTUS reverberations: Retroactive in Florida and Kentucky

From Bloomberg Law

The United States Law Week®
October 27, 2016
Criminal Law

IQ Rule for Death Penalty Retroactive in Fla., Ky.

BNA Snapshot

• Rule loosening restraints on mental disability evidence in death cases retroactive
• Opens door for fresh sentencing for some death-row inmates

Oct. 24 — Death-row inmates in Florida and Kentucky whose near-normal IQ scores blocked them from introducing any evidence that they are too intellectually disabled to be executed must be given a fresh chance to present their claims, a divided Florida Supreme Court and a unanimous Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Oct. 20 (Walls v. State, 2016 BL 350410, Fla., No. SC15-1449, 10/20/16 and White v. Commonwealth, Ky., No. 2013-SC-000791-MR, 10/20/16).  The decisions throw open the door for other death-row inmates who were barred from introducing such evidence just because their IQ scores were above a bright-line threshold.

Hall Rule Breaks New Ground

In both cases, the courts ruled that Hall v. Florida, 82 U.S.L.W. 4373, 2014 BL 145335 (U.S. May 27, 2014), which declared unconstitutional Florida's categorical bar against intellectual disablility evidence in capital cases for any convicted defendant whose IQ score is above 70, must be applied retroactively.

The rule announced in Hall is not simply a different interpretation of a rule of criminal procedure, it is a substantive restriction on the states’ power to execute someone, the Kentucky Supreme Court said in an opinion by Justice Bill Cunningham. “We are dealing here with a U.S. Supreme Court directive that not only proscribes intellectually disabled people from being put to death, but defines the manner in which the mental deficiencies of offenders must be evaluated,” Cunningham wrote. Kentucky Justice Samuel T. Wright III agreed that Karu Gene White should get a new hearing but concurred in separate opinion that addresses waiver issues.

The Florida Supreme Court reached the same conclusion about retroactivity in its 5-2 per curiam ruling. “We find that Hall warrants retroactive application as a development of fundamental significance that places beyond the State of Florida the power to impose a certain sentence—the sentence of death for individuals within a broader range of IQ scores than before,” it said.  Justice James E. C. Perry concurred in the result only and Barbara J. Pariente filed a separate concurrence arguing that Frank A. Walls was entitled to a new hearing to avoid “manifest injustice.” Justice Charles T. Canady, joined by Justice Ricky L. Polston, argued in dissent against making Hall retroactive, noting that it will cause “a major disruption to the application of the death penalty.”

The Florida Attorney General's Office and the Kentucky Attorney General's Office represented their respective states.

The Department of Public Advocacy represented White. The Office of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel represented Walls.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at
For More Information

White v. Commonwealth is available at
Wallis v. State is available at