BOISE -- On the heels of a Supreme Court decision on a Florida case about executing mentally disabled inmates, KTVB asked the state what it means for Idaho's laws and death row inmates.
Idaho's law is similar to Florida's, and there is an Idaho inmate making similar claims in court.
Right now, like in Florida, Idaho law says part of defining a mentally disabled person (state law uses the term mentally retarded ) who cannot be executed, is someone with an IQ of 70 or less.
AG's Office: Supreme Court decision marks significant change in death penalty law
Part of the question in the Florida case of convicted murderer Freddie Lee Hall was the use of a margin of error, which the Supreme Court now says should be considered along with other factors.
According to attorneys, the decision marks another significant change in capital punishment law. The Supreme Court has previously made at least two other significant rulings on the issue of the mental capacity of inmates on death row in the last two decades.
One of the biggest problems that we have in the area of capital litigation is the constant change in the law, particularly from the United States Supreme Court, said Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson.
Idaho death row inmate also arguing mental disability case
Gerald Pizzuto, an Idaho death row inmate, argues he is too mentally disabled to be legally executed. In one of his cases, he has presented a verbal IQ measurement of 72, which is two points higher the cutoff listed in code.
Pizzuto's claims have been denied, with courts saying he needs to present more evidence. Right now, Pizzuto's mental disability case sits in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been waiting on the Supreme Court decision on Hall.
We have to explain to the Ninth Circuit our respective positions on how Hall impacts his case. That's really where we're at with it. How does Hall impact Pizzuto's case? And the state's position will be that it doesn't impact it at all, said Anderson.
However, Pizzuto's attorneys believe his case should change now. To read the article with Pizzuto's attorney's perspective and comments to KTVB on Wednesday, click here.
State: Inmate will likely stay on death row, even with Supreme Court decision
Both sides will argue the case. Pizzuto's attorneys and the state will both file new briefings and eventually argue in front of the court.
We're going to continue to litigate this thing, but ultimately, it's our position that Pizzuto will be executed, said Anderson.
In addition to the issue of an IQ test being over or under, he says other federal laws would likely force the 9th Circuit to defer to the Idaho Supreme Court's earlier ruling in Pizzuto's case, unless Pizzuto could show that prior decision was an unreasonable application of the law.
Second, Anderson says a week-long hearing in this case also showed evidence of higher IQ tests that are well outside the range of a suggested five-point margin of error. Anderson also points out another part of the Idaho code, requiring those claiming mental disability or retardation must show the disability began before he or she was 18 years old.
Mental retardation is defined as something that occurs before the 18th birthday, and Pizzuto can't establish that, Anderson said.
The Attorney General's Office says possible outcomes in that particular case in the 9th Circuit range from the court agreeing with previous judges that he's mentally fit for the death penalty to an order to never execute him to a number of other orders in between.
Will Idaho's law need to be rewritten?
While no margin of error on an IQ test is explicitly written in Idaho code, the Attorney General's office doesn't think the state would need to change the law based on the supreme court's decision.That's because the high court said the Florida law itself is constitutional, it was the interpretation that was off.
I don't think [Idaho code] does have to be modified at all because the United States Supreme Court said that Florida's statute was Constitutional on its face, Anderson said. It was the Florida Supreme Court's interpretation of the statute.
Anderson said there could be scenarios in which the law would need to be modified in Idaho, primarily if a court determined Idaho's law doesn't allow for death row inmates to present evidence of a margin of error in the IQ test results.
If we're wrong, and the Idaho Supreme Court interpreted the statute erroneously, then we might have to make some modifications. But the reality is it's the Idaho Supreme Court's interpretation of Idaho's statute that is really being examined, not the actual statute itself, Anderson said.