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Tennessee court rules more than IQ test needed in death row cases

IQ test results are no longer enough to determine whether a convicted felon is fit for the death penalty, ruled the Tennessee Supreme Court Monday. Tennessee

Jul 31, 2020
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IQ test results are no longer enough to determine whether a convicted felon is fit for the death penalty, ruled the Tennessee Supreme CourtMonday.
Tennessee law precludes executing people who are intellectually disabled, and, thanks to Monday’s ruling, an IQ a score of 70 or below is no longer a stand-alone indicator. Now mental health expert testimony will be considered in the ruling.
According to the Memphis Daily News, the decision is based on the appeal of death row inmate Michael Angelo Coleman(PDF), who was convicted for robbing and murdering Leon Watson in Memphis in 1979. Coleman was convicted of six prior violent felonies, and though he met the IQ standard for imposing the death penalty, two experts testified he was intellectually disabled, according to the appeal.
“While a person’s I.Q. is customarily obtained using standardized intelligence tests … the statute does not provide clear direction regarding how a person’s I.Q. should be determined and does not specify any particular test or testing method that should be used,” Justice William C. Koch, Jr. wrote for the Supreme Court. “Ascertaining a person’s IQ is not a matter within the common knowledge of laypersons. Expert testimony in some form will generally be required to assist the trial court in determining whether a criminal defendant is a person with intellectual disability.”
The court found that in Coleman’s case, the lower courts incorrectly treated his intellectual disability and mental illness as two separate causes of his adaptive limitations.
Paolo Reyna

Paolo Reyna

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Paolo Reyna is a writer and storyteller with a wide range of interests. He graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Media Studies. Paolo enjoys writing about celebrity culture, gaming, visual arts, and events. He has a keen eye for trends in popular culture and an enthusiasm for exploring new ideas. Paolo's writing aims to inform and entertain while providing fresh perspectives on the topics that interest him most. In his free time, he loves to travel, watch films, read books, and socialize with friends.
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