Supreme Court Notebook

 High court looks at death row inmate’s IQ scores 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is hearing an appeal from a Florida death row inmate who claims he is protected from execution because he is mentally disabled.

The case being argued Monday at the court centers on how authorities determine who is eligible to be put to death, 12 years after the justices prohibited the execution of the mentally disabled.
 
The court has until now left it to the states to set rules for judging who is mentally disabled. In Florida and certain other states, an intelligence test score higher than 70 means an inmate is not mentally disabled, even if other evidence indicates he is.

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.
Hall’s guilt is not at issue before the high court.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state law regarding executions and mental disability has no wiggle room if an inmate tests above 70.

Psychiatrists and psychologists who are supporting Hall say an IQ test alone is insufficient for a diagnosis of mental disability. They say there’s a consensus among the mental health professions that accurate diagnosis must also include evaluating an individual’s ability to function in society, along with finding that the mental disability began in childhood.

They and Hall also contend that an IQ score is properly read in a range because the results are generally reliable, but not 100 percent so. The range takes into account a margin of error, a feature of all standardized testing.

The case is Hall v. Florida, 12-10882.
 

Supreme Court won’t hear German home-school case 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a German family seeking asylum in the United States because their home country does not allow home-schooling.
The justices rejected an appeal from Uwe and Hannelore Romeike who claim the German government is persecuting them because they want to raise their children in accordance with their Christian beliefs.
The family moved to the U.S. in 2008 after facing fines and threats for refusing to send their children to a state-approved school, as required by Germany’s compulsory attendance law. They say German laws violate international human rights standards.
Last year, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that claim. The court found that U.S. law does not grant asylum to every victim of unfair treatment.
 

High court agrees to look at inmate’s right to grow beard 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether an Arkansas prison inmate must be allowed to grow a short beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.
The justices said Monday they will hear an appeal from inmate Gregory Holt, who says his Muslim beliefs require him to grow a beard.
State corrections officials say their grooming policy prohibiting beards promotes hygiene and safety.
The court previously blocked the state from forcing Holt to shave the beard while the appeal was under consideration. The case will be argued in the fall.
The 38-year-old Holt is serving a life sentence for domestic violence and burglary. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said in 2012 that prosecutors said Holt cut his girlfriend’s throat and stabbed her in the chest at her mobile home.
 
Justices decline to re-enter immigration/housing debate 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ended two local governments’ efforts to prevent some immigrants from renting apartments.
The justices on Monday declined to take up appeals from the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, Texas, or the city of Hazleton, Pa., of lower court rulings that blocked local ordinances regulating rental housing. Both were intended to keep people who are in the country illegally from finding housing in those jurisdictions.
The Supreme Court held in 2012 that immigration is primarily a matter for the federal government, ruling out most local and state laws targeting illegal immigration. The Hazleton case also involved an ordinance that would have denied permits to businesses that hired people who are in the U.S. illegally.

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