Court reduces killer's death sentence to life for mental disability

Image 1 of 2

Freddie Lee Hall spent the last 37 years on death row, but this week the Florida Supreme Court reduced his sentence from death to life in prison.

The high court ruled Hall has  "serious mental difficulties and is probably somewhat restarted," which attorney Anthony Rickman explained comes down to a constitutional issue. 

"The 8th Amendment protects the mentally disabled from being executed," Rickman explained.

He was referring to the part of the 8th Amendment which says executing someone who is mentally handicapped amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

"Florida had a bright line rule that said if your IQ was 70 or higher, you could be executed. What the Supreme Court said is, that's not allowed anymore," Rickman explained.

Hall was convicted of killing a Leesburg woman in 1978. The evidence shows Hall has an IQ of 60 and he suffers from organic brain damage and chronic psychosis.

"At age 51, he had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old," Rickman said.

Hall's attorney argued his client's mental handicap would have affected him at the time of the crime.

In its ruling, justices weighed testimony from mental health experts who said Hall meets the medical definition of intellectually disabled. That means Hall, who is the longest-serving death row inmate in the state, will die in prison, but not the hands of the government.

This sweeping ruling, Rickman said, may prompt attorneys for other mentally challenged inmates to call their sentences into question.

"Those individuals now have the opportunity to have their case re-reviewed, potentially to determine whether or not they are intellectually disabled for purposes the death penalty," said Rickman.