Judicial brief co-written by Prof. Dan Krauss looks at intellectual disability and the death penalty

Professor of psychology Daniel Krauss has said that, “Psychology and law have a lot to learn from each other.”

Krauss, who is a member of the United States Supreme Court bar and a board certified forensic psychiatrist, has coauthored an article for the American Psychological Association’s magazine, Monitor, that discusses an important intersection of these two fields. Titled, “Revisiting intellectual disability and the death penalty,” it outlines the case of Hall v. Florida, a challenge to Florida’s cutoff IQ score of 70 to establish developmental disability, or what was previously known as mental retardation. Freddie Lee Hall was sentenced to death by a Florida jury in 1982 for the murder of a pregnant 21-year-old. During one sentencing trial, the court determined Hall to be mentally retarded, but in a later trial, he exceeded the state’s cutoff score of 70 and was sentenced to death.

The state’s determination that Hall could be executed calls into question how states interpret and establish their own standards for establishing mental retardation/developmental disability for defendants in capital cases. More specifically, the question is whether Florida’s sentencing of Hall to death violates Atkins v. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2002 that held that sentencing these people to death violated the 14th and the Eighth Amendments’ prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Read Krauss’ one-page brief on the Hall v. Florida case, which summarizes the case and explains the decision by the American Psychological Association to file an amicus brief in support of Hall’s appeal. He believes this case is particularly important because it will have far-reaching implications for how much the law relies on psychological expertise in the diagnosis of developmental disability, and also demonstrates how the legal system and/or legislatures may misunderstand aspects of mental illness.

As part of his role in Division 9 (The Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues) APA’s Court Watch committee, Krauss writes on legal decisions relevant to the intersection of law and psychology, and he also has previously aided the APA in evaluating and developing amicus briefs on important legal and psychological issues.

Krauss is the chair of CMC’s psychology department.