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Supreme Court Brief

By Robbie Markus

On March 3rd of 2014 the Supreme Court heard the case Hall v. Florida. The key
legal/constitutional issues being raised in this case are The Eighth Amendment, the definition of
mental retardation, and states rights.
The petitioner gave an argument that it was not fair to determine the IQ of someone by
simply using a bright line test like the Wechsler Adult Intelligence scale, and suggested that
analyses be conducted by experts to determine if someone was actually mentally retarded. They
also made the point that it was not the state of Floridas right to determine the definition of
mental retardation, as well as the argument that Floridas definition of mental retardation
contracts the definition set in the Supreme Court Case Atkins v. Virginia. This is because
Florida does not allow for a standard error of measurement when administering and reviewing
their bright line IQ test. They simply say any score below a 70 defines mental retardation. This
contradicts the definitions made in Atkins that allow the error of measurement to be considered
when discussing the mental retardation of someone.
The responding attorney started with the argument that Florida is not the only state that
defines mental retardation with a bright line IQ test; in fact nine other significant states have
implemented rules just like it. They then went on to argue for the fact that death penalty cases
like this one almost always go on for decades, so to choose to slow down the process even
further by creating deep analyses of each potentially retarded person would just elongate the
process. They also pointed out how the State of Florida should have the right to determine the
rules and whats best for their own citizens, and that the State of Florida already has a rule set in
place for mentally retarded persons, so whats the need to tear it down? Finally, the responding

attorney made the compelling argument that in the past the court has followed the states actions
to decide cruel and unusual punishment, and argued that it shouldnt be any different here.
My opinion on the case is that Hall needs full, in-depth analyses as well as all mentally
retarded persons instead of a quick, careless bright line IQ test. Bright line IQ tests like the
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale do not account for all factors to the extent that they need to be
accounted for when attempting to end the life of a man who lacks basic social skills. I believe
that it is not Floridas right to determine the definition of mental retardation. Finally, I believe
that it is cruel and unusual punishment to give a mentally retarded man the death penalty, but if
they are not mentally retarded after in-depth analysis, then it should be allowed.
Roberts would clearly vote with the state of Florida. He has been known to be a huge
advocator for states rights, and in a case like this he would instantly attempt to give the State of
Florida its right to define mental retardation. He believes that the states should decide whats
best for their citizens, and in this case that means defining mentally retarded in the way they
want. He is also generally in favor of the death penalty, so that belief would also sway him in
the direction of the state of Florida. Roberts would make an argument that this man killed
someone, regardless of his intelligence, and he deserves to die like every person who killed a
man. Roberts would argue that the state of Florida, more than anyone, wants to see justice
served. Mr. Hall committed an unspeakable act upon a citizen of Florida, and therefore he should
be given the death penalty. Ultimately, the states rights and death penalty rewards will be too
enticing for Roberts to stray to the other side. Unless, of course, his opinion is losing 4-5, in
which he may choose to sway over to the majority, and write the majority opinion, and dulling
down the liberal opinion that won. He would do this so the liberal decision is not nearly as
liberal, as Roberts, a conservative, is writing the majority opinion himself.