How Intellectually Disabled Should You Be to Avoid Death Row?
Rodney Renard Newberry, aged 46, was convicted of the 1st degree murder of Terrese Pernell Stevens, aged 38, when he used an AK-47 to shoot him a dozen times while along with two other males he robbed him in the parking lot of a club just north of Jacksonville’s Springfield district.
The Florida Supreme Court doesn’t know how intelligent Newberry is, and that may make it hard for the justices to make an intelligent ruling on whether the Jacksonville man belongs on Death Row.
As with many homicide cases it takes a long time before the sentence is finally decided and Newberry’s sentencing only took place in April 2014 after an 8-4 recommendation by a jury that also agreed to life imprisonment for the robbery.
Even for a man allegedly as violent as Newberry he is entitled to appeal his sentence and the Appeals attorneys representing him have asked Florida’s Supreme Court to resentence him to life in jail without parole. If this appeal fails, the request is that Newberry be returned to Jacksonville to the original trial court so that a study can be carried out to assess if Newberry is too mentally disabled to face execution.
This action has mainly come about since the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that it is unconstitutional to place intellectually disabled individuals on Death Row and it further ruled that methods used by the State of Florida to determine intellectual disability through the use of an IQ test were unconstitutional.
Newberry sat an IQ test at aged 8 and scored 81. Before this recent Supreme Court ruling, Florida had set the IQ at under 70 for anyone to be considered intellectually disabled. The Supreme Court has indicated to Florida that it has to take into consideration other factors apart from an IQ score. There is also evidence that suggests Newberry became more intellectually disabled after his only childhood IQ test. This may well mean that he would fall under Florida’s under 70 IQ score.
Newberry’s attorneys at trial did not try to confirm his intelligence level as it had already been recorded as 81, but as with all death row sentences the intelligence of the person has to be accurately determined. Whether intellectually disabled or not, all people sentenced to Death Row in Florida are entitled to appeal their sentence automatically.
If the conviction and death sentence are upheld by the Supreme Court the defendant still has the chance to prove incompetency on the part of his or her trial attorneys or that there is fresh evidence. Proof that Newberry’s intelligence level is below the score for the death sentence to take effect is a good enough reason to appeal sentence but the U.S. Supreme Court does require additional evidence to determine the intelligence level of a person who has been sentenced to the death penalty.
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