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Kentucky's Use of IQ Test to Determine Competency for Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional


The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that part of Kentucky’s death law in unconstitutional.

The decision stems from a case involving a man convicted of murdering a Muhlenberg County teenager 20 years ago.

Robert Keith Woodall was sentenced to death after pleading guilty to viciously attacking 16-year-old Sarah Hansen, raping her, and then dumping her body in a freezing lake where she drowned.

The Courier-Journal reports Woodall’s attorneys argued he should be exempt from capital punishment because he’s intellectually disabled but never received a hearing. The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled Woodall should receive a hearing to help determine his mental aptitude.

Kentucky has used an IQ test to determine if defendants have a high enough cognitive ability to receive the death penalty. But the state high court says that’s an outdated method that potentially exposes the developmentally disabled to execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing the mentally disabled is unconstitutional.

The award-winning news team at WKU Public Radio consists of Dan Modlin, Kevin Willis, Lisa Autry, and Joe Corcoran.
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