CORRECTED: DECEMBER 13, 2018.
APPEAL FROM CALDWELL CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE CLARENCE A.
WOODALL III, JUDGE NO. 97-CR-00053.
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 Emily Lucas Assistant Attorney
MINTON, CHIEF JUSTICE.
Keith Woodall was convicted and sentenced to death nearly
twenty years 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 postconviction motion
requesting that the trial court declare him to be
intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition
of the death penalty.
consideration of the United States Supreme Court's
precedent precluding the imposition of the death penalty upon
intellectual disabled persons, we hold that Kentucky Revised
Statute (KRS) 532.130(2), a statute with an outdated test for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 of
Woodall's motion and remand this case to the trial court
to conduct a hearing, make findings, and issue a ruling on
the issue of Woodall's potential intellectual disability
following this Court's and the U.S. Supreme Court's
guidelines on such a determination, especially as espoused in
Moore v. Texas.
pleaded guilty to murder, rape, and kidnapping and a jury
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
penalty upon him is unconstitutional. Woodall also sought expert
funding in that motion. The Commonwealth responded, and the
trial court granted Woodall's motion for expert funding.
then replied with an expert's contemporaneous opinion
that Woodall is intellectually disabled. After another
response from the Commonwealth and reply from Woodall, the
trial court denied Woodall's motion without conducting a
hearing, upholding Woodall's death sentence. Woodall then
appealed 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 intellectually disabled, which would
preclude the imposition of the death penalty.
Eighth Amendment of the United States
Constitution prohibits the execution of a person who
has an intellectual disability. 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 individual has an intellectual
disability. 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 from presenting other evidence that
would show his faculties are limited." The U.S. Supreme
Court held that a rigid and bright-line rule like
Florida's was unconstitutional.
U.S. Supreme Court in Hall specifically mentioned
Kentucky law: "Only the Kentucky and Virginia
Legislatures have adopted a fixed score cutoff identical to
Florida's." The Court in Hall cited to KRS
532.130(2),  which states:
A defendant with significant subaverage intellectual
functioning existing concurrently with substantial deficits
in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental
period is referred to in KRS 532.135 and
532.140 as a defendant with a serious
intellectual disability. "Significantly subaverage
general intellectual functioning" is defined as an
intelligence quotient (I.Q.) of seventy (70) or below.
Court in Bowling v. Commonwealth, decided before the
benefit of Hall, interpreted KRS 532.130(2), finding
that "[t]he General 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 in Atkins, thus does
not implicate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against
'cruel and unusual' punishment.... [W]e decline to
rewrite this unambiguous statute."
Court in White v. Commonwealth,  considering
the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hall,
expounded on this issue, holding that "trial courts in
Kentucky must 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." This Court left no doubt that "once
an evaluation has been ordered for the purpose of determining
intellectual disability, then the evaluation must meet the
dictates of Hall...."
considered the application of our intellectual disability
statutes again in the post-conviction challenge of defendant
Larry Lamont White in White v.
Commonwealth. There, we stated the trial
court's process for determining an intellectual
In order for a defendant to meet Kentucky's statutory
definition of "serious intellectual disability,"
and thus evade the death penalty, he or she must meet the
following criteria pursuant to KRS 532.135: (1) the
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 adaptive
behavior, which manifested during the developmental period.
Procedurally, trial courts require a showing of an IQ
value of 70 or below before conducting a hearing regarding
the second criteria of diminished adaptive
White cases show a restriction in Kentucky on the
defendant's ability to attain intellectual-disability
status to prevent the consideration of the 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,  the bright-line 70-IQ-score finding
still appears to be the strict and rigid hurdle that a
defendant must surmount before the trial court considers any
the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Moore v.
Texas,  giving better, but not much clearer,
guidance as to how courts should evaluate this issue.
"In Hall v. Florida, we held that a State
cannot refuse to entertain other evidence of
intellectual disability when a defendant has an IQ score
above jq" «AS we
instructed in Hall, adjudication of intellectual
disability should be 'informed by the views of medical
experts.' That instruction cannot sensibly be read to
give courts leave to diminish the force of the medical
community's consensus." "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 community's diagnostic
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.”
"[W]e do not end the intellectual-disability
inquiry, one way or the other, based on [the defendant's]
IQ score." "The medical community's
current standards supply one constraint on States'
leeway" in establishing the standards for determining
whether a criminal defendant has an intellectual
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.S. Supreme Court
seems to suggest that a defendant's IQ score, after
adjusting for statistical error, acts as the preliminary
inquiry that could foreclose consideration of other evidence
of intellectual disability, depending on the
things are clear, however: 1) regardless of some of the
statements the U.S. Supreme Court has made, the prevailing
tone of the U.S. Supreme Court's examination 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 ...