TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court reduced the sentence of a death row inmate Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it to reconsider his intellectual abilities based on factors other than his IQ.
Freddie Lee Hall, 71, will now serve a life sentence for the 1978 murder of a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was abducted while leaving a Leesburg grocery store.
The state Supreme Court originally upheld Hall’s death sentence based on multiple IQ tests that scored above 70 — the level at which people are considered to be intellectually disabled. But the U.S. Supreme Court said two years ago that IQ tests have a margin of error and ruled that scores alone can’t be used to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled in borderline cases.
The federal high court sent Hall’s case back to Florida for further review and the state Supreme Court now considers Hall to be intellectually disabled based on “voluminous” evidence beyond his IQ.
“Hall has demonstrated that he meets the clinical, statutory, and constitutional requirements to establish that his intellectual disability serves as a bar to execution,” the court wrote in its 4-2 ruling.
Hall’s lawyer, Eric Pinkard, said it’s a determination that should have been made years ago.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long to prove that Mr. Hall is intellectually disabled. He clearly is and every expert that’s ever evaluated him has agreed with that,” Pinkard said. “It’s a sad case. His childhood was also very sad. It was used against him when he grew up and he was beaten about it. It really would have been a travesty if he had been executed.”
Then-Gov. Bob Martinez signed a death warrant for Hall in 1988, but after appeals, the Florida Supreme Court threw out the death and ordered a new sentence. A lower court judge again sentenced him to death and the sentence was upheld by the state Supreme Court.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing the intellectually disabled violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but until the 2014 ruling, it let states decide how to determine if condemned prisoners were disabled.
Hall and a co-defendant were convicted of kidding napping Karol Hurst, who was seven months pregnant, raping her and then fatally shooting her. Later that day they killed Hernando County sheriff’s Deputy Lonnie Coburn. Hall received a death sentence for Hurst’s murder and life for a second-degree murder conviction in Coburn’s death. His accomplice, Mack Ruffin, was sentenced to life.