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U.S. Supreme Court.U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo: Mike Scarcella/ALM)

In Atkins v. Virginia the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2002, ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause prohibits the execution of persons with intellectual disability. Given that intellectual disability is a long-­standing, well-established clinical diagnosis, the court naturally relied upon the scientifically valid, clinical consensus definitions of intellectual disability in creating the categorical bar.

Since Atkins, several states, ­primarily Florida and Texas, have exhibited displeasure with — and resistance to — the Supreme Court’s decision by embracing nonclinical and unscientific practices that are intended to limit the effect of the constitutional mandate.

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