WASHINGTON -- Twelve years after barring execution of the mentally disabled, the Supreme Court on Tuesday prohibited states in borderline cases from relying only on intelligence test scores to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible to be executed.
In a 5-4 decision that split the court's liberal and conservative justices, the court said that Florida and a handful of other states must look beyond IQ scores when inmates test in the range of 70 to 75. IQ tests have a margin of error, and those inmates whose scores fall within the margin must be allowed to present other evidence of mental disability, Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion.
A score of 70 is widely accepted as a marker of mental disability, but medical professionals say people who score as high as 75 can be considered intellectually disabled because of the test's margin of error.
In 2002, the court said that executing mentally disabled inmates violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. But until Tuesday, the justices left to the states the determination of who is mentally disabled.
Kennedy said the finality of capital punishment requires giving inmates the chance to present evidence of mental disability in borderline cases.
"The states are laboratories for experimentation, but those experiments may not deny the basic dignity the Constitution protects," Kennedy said in an opinion that was joined by the court's four more liberal justices.
To look into CIA officer revelation: President Barack Obama's top lawyer will look into how the name of the CIA's top official in Afghanistan was accidently revealed to thousands of journalists, the White House said Tuesday. White House spokesman Caitlin Hayden said chief counsel Neil Eggleston will also make recommendations for how to ensure such a disclosure doesn't happen again. The officer's name was included by U.S. Embassy staff on a list of American officials who met with Obama Sunday during a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Hacker who helped feds to be freed: Hector Xavier Monsegur, a computer hacker who helped the government disrupt hundreds of cyberattacks on Congress, NASA and other sensitive targets and cripple the hacktivist crew known as Anonymous, will be freed from prison after being sentenced Tuesday to time served. Prosecutors had detailed Monsegur's cooperation in court papers while asking a judge to reward him with leniency. He had spent seven months behind bars. Working around the clock with FBI agents at his side, Monsegur "provided, in real time, information about then-ongoing computer hacks and vulnerabilities in significant computer systems," prosecutors wrote. The FBI estimates he helped detect at least 300 separate hacks, preventing millions of dollars in losses.
Man dies after acquiring virus: An Oklahoma man has died after acquiring the Heartland virus, making him the second person in the U.S. to die after coming down with the illness, state health officials said Tuesday. The state Department of Health released few details but said the man was from Delaware County in northeast Oklahoma, was over the age of 65 and died recently from complications of the virus, which is found in the lone star tick and is likely spread through tick bites. The virus was first identified in 2009, in Missouri. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the other patient who died after acquiring the virus had other health conditions.
Hall ousted in Texas GOP primary: Congressman Ralph Hall, at 91 the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House, was ousted Tuesday in the Texas Republican runoff by a candidate barely half his age. Backed by powerful national conservative groups, 48-year-old former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe was able to paint Hall as too cozy with the GOP establishment after 34 years in office. He forced the incumbent into his first runoff in 17 terms in the House, then won it decisively. He insisted, though, that he wasn't surprised or sad.