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Name: People v. Superior Court (Vidal)
Case #: S134901
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 04/12/2007

The determination of mental retardation for purposes of prohibiting execution as cruel and unusual punishment is not required to be based on a defendant’s full scale I.Q. scores. The California Supreme Court granted review to determine in this death penalty case whether the prosecutor can obtain pretrial appellate review of a trial court’s determination that the defendant is mentally retarded, and whether, if such review is available, the trial court employed the correct legal standard in finding that appellant was mentally retarded. The Court held that the pretrial finding of mental retardation is appealable under Penal Code section 1238, subdivision (a)(8). Further, the trial court did not use an incorrect legal standard in making the finding of mental retardation. The fact that appellant’s Full Scale IQ was generally been above the range considered to show mental retardation does not, as a matter of law, dictate a finding that he is not mentally retarded. The legal definition of mental retardation for purpose of determining whether execution is cruel and unusual punishment does not incorporate a fixed requirement of a particular test score. Therefore the trial court did not err when it gave less weight to appellant’s I.Q. score and greater wait to other evidence that he had significantly impaired intellectual functioning, including verbal intelligence scores which were in the mental retardation range.