High Court: IQ Test Alone Can't Decide Death Penalty

Plus: Justices favor Secret Service in free-speech ruling
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2014 11:35 AM CDT
High Court: IQ Test Alone Can't Decide Death Penalty
People walk on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday, April 26, 2014.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Supreme Court today ruled that states must look beyond an IQ score in borderline cases of mental disability to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible to be executed. The justices said in a 5-4 decision that Florida and a handful of other states cannot rely solely on an IQ score above 70 to bar an inmate from claiming mental disability. Justice Anthony Kennedy said for the court that IQ tests have a margin of error and that inmates whose scores fall within the margin must be allowed to present other evidence of mental disability. The decision was one of several handed down today:

  • The court also dismissed protesters' free-speech claims against two Secret Service agents who were guarding President George W. Bush during a 2004 campaign trip to Oregon. In a unanimous decision, the justices said the agents did not violate the protesters' First Amendment rights by moving them farther away from the president while allowing pro-Bush demonstrators to stay nearby.
  • And justices sided with police officers who were sued over a high-speed chase that ended with the deaths of the fleeing driver and his passenger. The court was unanimous in holding that the officers who fatally shot driver Donald Rickard did not violate Rickard's constitutional rights after a chaotic chase in Memphis caught on tape. Justice Samuel Alito concluded that "it is beyond serious dispute that Rickard's flight posed a grave public safety risk, and ... the police acted reasonably in using deadly force to end that risk."
(More US Supreme Court stories.)

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