IQ Standard for Execution Overturned in California

“The California Supreme Court says IQ is not a sufficient basis to decide who may be executed. Prosecutors suggested anyone with an IQ of 70 or higher was not retarded and therefore could be executed. But the court decided 1) ‘IQ tests are insufficiently precise to utilize a fixed cutoff’ and 2) death-row inmates can get their sentences changed to life in prison if a judge rules that they’ve probably had ‘significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning’ and other mental disabilities since they were minors. IQ can be a factor, but not the sole factor. Victim advocate’s spin: The ruling will create ‘a lot of work’ for prosecutors fighting off appeals. Anti-death penalty spin: A little work never killed anyone. Implication: Our understanding of intelligence is becoming more complex.” (Slate )

This more sophisticated approach would avoid Kafkaesque situations like the recent case in which a mentally retarded convicted murderer was said to have had his intellectual development so stimulated by working with his defense attorneys on the appeals of his death sentence that he was no longer below the IQ threshold for execution.