Woodall v. Commonwealth

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Justia Opinion Summary

The Supreme Court held that Ky. Rev. Stat. 532.130(2), which contains what the Court determined was an “outdated test” for ascertaining intellectual disability, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Nearly twenty years ago, Defendant was convicted for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a teenage girl. Defendant was sentenced to death. Here, Defendant filed a postconviction motion under section 532.130(2) requesting that the trial court declare him to be intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition of the death penalty. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that any rule of law that states that a criminal defendant automatically cannot be ruled intellectually disabled and precluded from execution simply because he or she has an IQ of 71 or above is unconstitutional. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to conduct a hearing, make findings, and issue a ruling on the issue of Defendant’s potential intellectual disability following this Court’s and the United States Supreme Court’s guidelines on such a determination, especially as set forth in Moore v. Texas, 137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017).

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. RENDERED: JUNE 14, 2018 TO BE PUBLISHED 2017-SC-000171-MR APPELLANT ROBERT KEITH WOODALL v. ON APPEAL FROM CALDWELL CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE CLARENCE A. WOODALL III, JUDGE NO. 97-CR-00053 APPELLEE COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY OPINION OF THE.COURT BY CHIEF JUSTICE MINTON REVERSING AND REMANDING Robert Keith Woodall was convicted and sentenced to death nearly twenty year:s ago for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a teenage girl. Today we consider Woodall's appeal from the trial court's denial of his recent post-· I conviction motion requesting that the trial court declare him to be intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition of the ·death penalty~ Upon consideration of the United States Supreme Court's precedent precluding the imposition of the death penalty upon intellect:ually disabled persons, we hold that Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 532.130(~), a statute with an outdated test for ascertaining intellectually disability, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to .the United States Constitution Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's denial o'!Woodall's motion . (. and remand this case to the ti-iaf court to conduct a hearing, make findings, . and issue a ruling on the issue of Woodall's potential.inteliectual di~ability · . following this Court's and the U.S. Supreme Court's guidelines on such a determination·, especially as espoused in Moore. v. ·Texas: 1 . . . I .. BACKGROUND. Woodall pleaded guilty to murder;rape;and kidnapping and ajucy recommended a sentence.of death, which the trial court adopted. Extensive collateral-attack litigation followed:· Eventually, Woodall filed a Kentucky Rules . . : of Civil Procedure ("CR") 60.02 and 60.03 motion, alleging that he is . . intellectually disabled and that the imposition of the death·perialty upon him. i~ unconstitu:tional.2 Woodall also sought expert funding in ·that motion. The Common~ealth responded, and the trial court gr~ted Woodall's motion for · expert fun~ing. Woodall'then replied with an expert's co~tempora.Ileou.s opinion that· . . . Woodall is intellectually disabled; After another response from the . . Commonwealth and reply from Woodall, the trial·cou~ denied Woo~all's rriotion ·without conducting a hearing, upholding Woodall's death sentence .. Woodall .then appeaied. the trial court's denial of his motion to this~Court, .seeking either ·. (1) a reversing of the trial court's decision and a hearing to. plead his case for . intellectual disability or (2) a final determination by this Court· that he is 1 137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017). 2 The Uri.ited States Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia held that the execution of a person suffering from an intellectual disability is unconstitutional, becaus~ it violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendlnent of the United States Constitution. 536 U.S. 304~ 321 (2002). 2 . . \ ·intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition of the death penalty. II. ANALYSIS. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution3 -prohibits the execution of a person. who has an intellectual disability.4 The U.S. Supreme Court expounded on this rule in Hall v. Florida, where it held unconstitutional Florida's strict and rigid determination as to whether an indiyi<;iual has an ' intellectual disability.s Specifically, Florida's highest court in Cherry v. State "held that a person whose test score is above 70, including a score within the margin for measurement error, does not have an intellectual disability and is barred frorri presenting other evide.nce that would. show his faculties are limited . "6 The U.S. Supreme Court held that a rigid and bright-line rule iike Florida's was unconstitutional. 7 The U.S. Supreme Court in Hall specific.ally mentioned :I<;entucky law: "Only the Kentucky and Virginia Legisl.atures have adopted a fixed score cutoff ,identical to Florida's.. "B The Court in Hall cited to KRS 532.130(2),9 which states: A defendant with significant subaverage intellectual functioning existing concurrently with substantial deficits in adaptive behavior 3 Specifically, the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, has been incorporated into state law by the Fourteer~.th Amendment. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 503 (2012). 4 Hall v. Florida, 134 S.Ct. 1986, 1990 (2014); Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 321 (2002). s 134 S.Ct. at 2001. 6 959 So.2d 702, 712"'."13 (Fla. 2007); Hall, 134 S.Ct. at 1994. 7 Hall, 134 S.Ct at 1994. \ s Id. at 1996. 9 Id. 3 and manifested dl1ring the developmental period is referred to in KRS 532.135 and 532:14010 as a defendant with a serious · intellectual disability. "Significantly su~average general intellectUal functioning" is defined as an intelligence quotient (I.Q.) of seventy (70) ·or below. · TJ:iis Court in Bowling v. Commonwealth, qedded before the benefit of Hall, · interpreted KRS 532.130(2), finding that "[t]he Gener8.l Assembly's adoption of a bright-line maximum IQ .of 70 as the ceiling for mental retardation 'generally conform[s]'to.the clinical definitions approved. i~ Atkins, thus does not . . . implicate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against 'cruel and unusual' punishment.... [W]e decline to rewrite this unambigu.ous -statute."11 · This Court in White v. Commonwealth, considering the U.S. Supreme Court's decisio.n in Hall, expounded on.this issue, holding that ~trial courts in · Kentucky mus~ consider an IQ test's margin of error.· And if the-IQ score range . . produced by such consideration.implicates KRS 532.130, KRS 532.140, and other relevant statutory provisions, the trial court must consider additional evidence of intellectual disability."12 This .Court left no doubt that "01:1ce an evaluation has been ordered for the purpose-of determining ~ntellectual disabi!ity, then the evaluation n;i.ust meet the dictates of Hall ...."13 KRS 532.140(1) states in relevant part, "[N]o offender who has been determined to be· an offender with a serious intellectual disability... shall be subject to execution." 10 . 11 · 12 13 163 S.W.3d.36~, . 376 (Ky. 2005) (emphasis added). 500 S.W.3d 208, 214 (Ky. 2016). . . Id. at 216. 4 . ' ~ W_e heard White's sitUation again i:r:t a later case in his p:r:oceedings. 14 · There, we stated the trial court's process for determining an intellectual dis8:bility: In order for a defendant to meet Kentucky's statutory definition of "serious intellecttial disability," and thus evade the death penalty, he or she must _meet the folloWing criteria pursuant to KRS 532.135: (1) th~ defendant' intellectual functioning must be "significantly subaverage"-.defined by statute as having an intelligence quotient ·of 70 or less; and (2) the defendant must demonstrate substantial deficits in adapti,ve behavior, .;which manifested during the developmental period; ·~ocedurally, trial courts reqz/.ire a showing of an IQ value of-70 .or below before conducting ci hearing regarding the second criteria of diminished adaptive behavior. is . The White companion cases show a restriction in KentU.cky on the defendant's ability .to attain intelle'ctual-disability status to prevent the consideration of 1:Pe death penalty on the finding that the defendant has an IQ score of 70 or below. While trial courts are required to adjust a defendant's IQ score for the standard ·error of measurement,16 the bright-line 70-IQ-scote finding still appears to be the strict and rigid hurdle that a defendant must surmount:before the trial court considers any other evidence. ·. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court .decided the case of Moore v. Texa.S, 17 giving better, but not much clearer, guidance as to how courts should evaluate .this issue. "In Hall v. Fl~rida, we held that a State cannot refuse to entertain . I ' . other evidence ofintellectual disability when- a defendant has an IQ score above . . . ~ 14 White v. Commonwealth, 2014-SC-000725-MR, 2017 WL 8315842 (Ky. Aug. 24, ' 2017). 1s Id. at *17 (emphasis added). 16 Id.; White, 500 S.W.3d at 214. 17 137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017). 5 70."lB "As w~ instructed in Hall, adjudication of intellectual disability should be 'informed by the views of medical experts. ,-That instrilction cannot sensibly be read to give courts leave to diminish the force of the medical community's consensus."19 "Even if 'the views of medical experts' do_ not 'dictate' a court's ·intellectual-disability determination, we clarified, the determination must be 'informed by the medical communify's diagnostic framework. "'20 "Hall invalidated Florida's strict IQ cutoff because the cutoff took 'an IQ score as final and conclusive evidence of a defendant's intellectual capacity, . when experts in the field would consider other evidence. "'21 "[W]e do not end the intellectual-disability inquiry, orie way or the other! based on [the defendant's] IQ score. "22 "The medical community's current standards supply one constrrunt on . States' leeway" in establishing the standards for determining whether a criminal def~ndant has an intellectual disa,bility.23 Admittedly, the U.S. Supreme-Court has not provided crystal-clear 'guidance·as to what exactly constitutes a constitutional violation regarding the _determination of whether a defendant is intellectually disabled to preclude the· imposition of the death penalty. It is also true that the U.~. Supreme Court seems to suggest that a defendant's IQ score, after adjusting for statistical 18 Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1048 (citing Hall, 134 S.Ct. at 2000-01) (emppasis added). 19 Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1044 (citing Hall, 134 S.Ct. at 2000). 20 Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1048 (citing Hall, 134 S.Ct. at 2000). 21 Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1050 (citing Hall, 134 S.C.t.at 1995). 22 Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1050 . . 23·1d. at 1053. 6 error, acts as the preliminary inquiry that could foreclose consideration of other evidence of intellectual disab~lity, depending on the score. 24 Two things are clear, however: 1) regardless c;>f some of the statements the U.S. Supreme Court has made, the prevailing tone of the U.S. Supreme . Court's exainination of this issue suggests that a determination based solely on IQ score, even after proper statistical-error adjustments have been made, is highly suspect; and 2) prevailing medical standards should be the basis for a determination as to a defendant's intellectual. disability to preclude the imposition of the dea~ penalty.2~ I . "Because the lower end of Moore's score range falls at or below 70, the CCA had to move. on to consider Moore's adaptive functio:rling." Moore, 137 S.Ct. at ~049 (citing Hall, 134' S.Ct. at 2001). "... [I]n line with Hall, we require that courts continue the inquiry and consider other evidence of intellectual disability where an individual's IQ score, adjusted for the test's standar9. error, falls within the clinically established range for intellectual:..functioning deficits." Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1049. 24 See State v. Gates, 410 P.3d 433, 435 (Ariz. 2018) (citing Mooreforits "holding that states do not have unfettered discretion to reject medical·community standards in defining [intellectual disability]"); 9 Ky. Prac. Crim. Prac. & Proc.§ 31:32 (5th ed.) (citing Moore: "state appellate court 'failed adequately to inform itself of the "medicaJ community's diagnostic framework:'' and thus abused the discretion it has in enforcing the restrictions on.executing the· intellectually disabled, noted in Atkins and Halt'); 9 · Minn. ·Prac., Criminal Law & Procedure§ 36:18 (4th ed.) ("For purposes of the death penalty, medical and psychiatric evidence should be considered. in determining mental status, rather than simply an arbitrary numerical LQ. score for [intellectual disability].") . (citing Hall and Moore); 15 Colo. Prac., Criminal Practice & Procedure§ 20.21 (~d ed.) (citing Moore: "the Eighth Amendment requires that the method a state uses to assess a defendant's intellectual disability must rely on current standards in the medical community"); Ga. Criminal Trial Practice§ 26:6 (2017-2018 ed.) (citing Moore: "states do not have 'unfettered discretion' in application of Atkins," rather, states are: "constrained by [the] medical community's current standardsj; Law of Sentencing§ 6:2 (citing Moore: "Intellectual disability that precludes a death sentence should rest on a consensus of the community's expert medical opinion undiminished by judicial formulae."); 28 Mo. Prac., Mo. Criminal Practice Handbook§. 38:8 (citing Moore for its , "holding that the determination of... intellectual disability must be governed by 'current medical consenSus,' and suggesting that the State's failure to confirm its disability determination to published professional standards will almost certainly· invalidate a . death sentence. j; 32 Mo. Prac., Missouri Criminal Law§ 57:3 (3d ed.) ("As noted hereinafter, the Missouri statute governing the issue of mental retardation may be inadequate to exempt all persons deemed 'intellectually disabled' under Atkins' categorical rule, which has been amplified to emphasize that the courts' determination 7 2s . \ ' As stated above,_ the U.S. Supreme Court has·made some statements, l.dentified in footnote 25 of this opinion,. to suggest that a defendant's IQ score, after adjusting for statisticf)..l error, forecloses furthe:r analysis as to a_ defendant's potential i:ritetlectu~ disability. We note the Ninth Circuit's discussion of this issue: In Hall, th~ Court en:iphasized _that, in death penalty cases when~ a defe:i:idant's intellectual functioning i~·a close question, the d~fendant "must be able to present additional evidence of inte~le~tual disability .... " .Jn fa,ct, in these situations, the court . must not "view a single factor as dispositive" given the complexity of intellectual disability assessments. Therefore, a court... must consider all indications of a defendant's intellectual disability and ·may not discard relevant evidence.26 Hall reinirids_ us that "the death penaltj is the gravest sentence our · society may impose," and that imposing this "harshest of · puriishm~nts pn an· intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent digtiit:y as a human being." Given these stakes, Hall warns that we must not make judgments in haste as to whether a person has an intellectual disability, but rather must consider all . the "substantial arid weighty evidence" in cases that present dose . questions. Put differently; we cannot risk m~g the protections of Atkins a nullity by executing a pers-oh with an intellectual . disability without giving him the "fair opportunity to show the Constitution prohibits [his or her].exectition.';27 . The Ninth Circuit appears to suggest that.courts should initially inquire into. a defendant's IQ score, and, if low enough, that mandates further analysis of . prevailing medical standards as to a defendant's potential iritell~ctual disaqility. But just like the tone of the U.S. Supreme Court, the.tone of the Ninth Circuit suggests that IQ score cannot be the sole factor in determining of the issue ~ largely a question. of experl consensus.") .. We note that numerous other secondary sources also supporj: our conclusion. · 26 21 Smith v. Ryan, 813 F.3d 1175, 1181 (9th Cir. 2016) (illternal citations omitted). Id. at 1191. 8 whether a ?efendant has an intellectual disability that precludes a death sentence. Guided by the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning in Moore, we are constrained to conclude that KRS '532.130(2) is simply outdated. And wJ::iile a mechanical use of this statute's bright-line rule promotes straightforward 'application and facilitates appellate review, it only provides the appropriate baseline information needed for judging intellectual disability. Lacking.the additional consideration of prevailing medical standards, KRS 532.130(2) . . potentially and unconstitutionally exposes intellectually disabled defendants to execution. We now conclude arid hold that any rule of law that states that .a . criminal defendant automatically cannot be ruled intellectually disabled and . . precluded from execution simply because-he or she has an IQ of 71 or above, . even after adjustment for statistical error, is unconstitutional. Courts in this . , . ,. Commonwealth must follow the guidelines established by the U.S. Court in Mo~re, Suprem~ which predicate a finding of intellectual disability by applying prevailing medical standards.28 Because prevailing medical standards change as new medical discoveries are made, routine application of a bright-line test ' , alone to determine 'death-penalty-disqualifying intellectual disability is an exercise in futility. In an attempt. to provide gtildance to courts confronting this issue, we shall attempt to fashion a rule. The U.S. Supreme Court in Moore favoraply 2s It is important to note that the defendant still bears the burden of proving intellectual disability by a preponderance of the evidence. Bowling, 163 S.W.3d at 381:.. 82 (internal citations omitted). 9 . viewed what appears to be the "gen~rally accepted, uncontroversial intellectllaldisability diagnostic definition," akin to a totality of the circu~stances test, and what KRS 532.130(2) seemingli reflects, "which identifies three core elements: . . · (1) intellectual-functioning deficits . (indicated by an IQ score 'approximately t:Wo . ' . . . . . . standard . deviations below the mean'-i.e., a score of roughly 70-.adjusted for . . the· 'standard error of measurement'; (2) adaptive deficits ('the inability to learn basic skills and adjust behavior to changing· circumstances, 1; and (3) the onset of these deficits while still a minot."29 But wpere KRS 532.130(2) does not".go . . ~ far enough is in recognizing that, in addition to ascertaining intellectual disability using this test, .prevailing medical standards should always take precedence in a court's determination. 30 in this case, the Commo~wealth concedes the need for a hearing in the . trial court to_ dete~ine if Woodall has a disqualifying intellectual disability. Woodall agrees, but further argue.s that this Court has· all the information needed to adjudge Woodall intellectually disabled. While it may be ttue that Woodall .has presented evidence to this Co.urt in support of his argume11t that. he is intellectually disabled and .should be rendered ineligible for the death penalty, we thin~ the proper remedy is to afford both Woodall and the Commonwealth an evidentiary hearing at the trial · 29 . . . cou~ level. Remand for a hearing is particularly warranted beca-µse ~is Court · Moore, 137 S.Ct. at 1045 (internal Citations omitted); see also supra, n. 26. For example, in· these types of cases, experts frequently testify as to the impact of · the "Flynn Effect," which is apparently a.recently discovered phenomenon that · mi.pacts a defenc;lap.t's IQ . score. These are the types of considerations, if proven to be prevailing medical standards, that should guide courts in determining whether an . individual is constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty due to illtellectual · · disability. · · · 30 10 has now declared unconstitution~ KRS $32.130(2) and has established a new _groun_dwork for a court's determination of this issue. So both parties should have ·the opportunity at the trial court level to present their.respective . . arguments under the new standard we have articulated today. III. CONCLUSION. For the reasons discussed abov~, we reverse the ruling of the trial court arid remand this case to the trial court to conduct a hearing consistent with ·this opinion. Minton, C.J., Hughes, Keller, VanMeter., Venters, and Wright, JJ., sitting. Minton, C.J.; Hughes, Keller, VanMeter, and Venters concur. Wright, J., concurs in part and dissents in part py separate opinion.· Cunningham, J., not sitting. WRIGHT, J., CONCURRING IN PART AND. DISSENTING IN PART: While I agree with the majority that this case needs to be remanded to the trial court for a hearing regarding Woodall's alleged intellectual disability, I respectfully dissent to i~s holding that KRS 532.130(2) is unconstitutional.· The issu~s addressed by the majority opinion are· good ·and reasonable resolutions as to future scientific .or medical-developments. However, the statute the majority overturns as unconstitutional currently complies with the DSM-5 (Di.agnostic· and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-5] published by the American Psychiatric .Association) whiCh. is an estkblished diagnostic standard. The .. prevailing medical consensus at any given time is subject to debate and would . be difficult for trial courts to determi~e;" however, the established diagn~sti'.c standards as set forth in the DSM:-5 are undoubtedly accepted. It is .simply too 11 spec:ulative to declare the statute unconstitutional due to the fact it may not comply with future medical or sdentific discoveries. Therefore, I dissent. I agree with the majority that fl~xibility to accommodate scientific development arid changes is· desirable. However, I do not believe there is a necessity to declare the s41.tute unconstitutional on these grounds. The majority says the statute is unconstitutional regarding the death penalty because it uses a specific numerical floor for a defendant's IQ. However, since the statute complies with the DSM-5 guidelines, I would not go to the extreme measure of striking it. . Here, the score of 70 provides a floor for determining intellectual capacity for execution. Any defendant whose IQ falls below that floor is not subject to execution. However, the trial court stiil has a place in making the determination of intellectual disabilio/ for a defendant whose IQ scores above · 70. Here, a psychiatrist testified Woodall was intellectually disabled. This testimony was enough to establish a prim~ facie sh.owing, requiring the trial ··court to conduct a hearing and take proof from Woodall as to his disability. Once a defendant establishes a prima fade case that he is ineligible for· the death penalty due to an intellectual disability, then the trial court must conduct a full hearing to resolve the issue. Since this is a defense, it must be raised and proven by the defendant. A defendant would have to fully cooperate with· an examination by the Commonwealth's expert in order that an adequate hearing could be conducted before the defendant could rely upori the defense. White v. Commonwe.alth, 500 S.W.3d 208, 210 (Ky. 2016) At the hearing, if the . defendant has established aprima facie case that he is intellectually disabled ' and if he has fully cooperated with the Commonwealth's expert's examination 12 then the burden of proof shifts to the Commonwealth to prove Woodall's ~apacity to be executed. ·"It is now eleme~taiy that the burden is on the government in a criminal case to.prove every element of the charged offense· beyond a reasonable doubt and that the failure to do so is an error of Constitutional magnitude." Miller v. Com"!-onwealth, 77 S.W.3.d 566, .576 (Ky. 2002). Each element of a criminal case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and there cari be factors that vary the score. The trial court must consider all the variables iri determining if the defendant is intellectually disab~ed. An example of such a factor that may affect the outcome is the ._ margin of error, which this coUrt ruled in White must be considered. Scientific evidence establishes that the current margin of error for the examination is 5 points above or below 70. Based upon the margin of error, an individual.with a score of 66 might not be intellectually disabled, while someone with a score of 75 might be so disabled. Therefore, proof beyond a reasonable d01,1bt requires a score of 76 to establish proo.f that a defendant is not intellectually disabled. This is the current established margin of error for the test. However, as testing improves the margin might decrease or additional scientific evidence might . . . J . ·enlarge it. A trial court must consider· the variable of the margin of error and any other variables that may prove or disprove intellectual disability beyond a . reasonable doubt. The statute complies with the current diagnostic standards, and trial courts must take other proof as to intellectual disability to determine whether a prima facie case is established~ After a prim~ facie case is presented, the trial 13 court must hold a hearing to -determine beyond a reasonable. doubt that a · d~fendant is eli$ible for the death penalty. The majority needlessly declares the statute at question . unconstitutional, as th<='. hearing outlined above resolves the issues with the statute that ·. form the basis for. the majority declaring it.unconstituti~_nal. . Th~refore~ I do not believe this Court should take the extreme measure of declaririg the statute unconstitutional·. Woodall's constitutional rights are . safeguarded by the. hearing that will be conducted on remand without striking a ~tatute enacted by the· General Assembly. COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Timothy G. Arnold . Dennis James Burke ·Assistant Public Advocate Michael Jay O'Hara O'Hara; Taylor, Sloan & Cassidy COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky Jeffrey Allan Cross . Assistant Attorney ·General .· ' 14
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