The majority view in today´s decision reflects changes in public attitudes on the issue since the court declared such executions acceptable in 1989, the Associated Press noted. Then, only two states that used capital punishment outlawed the practice for retarded defendants. Now, 18 states ban it.
Twenty 20 states now allow execution of retarded people. Inmates in those states will likely now argue that they are retarded, and that their sentences should be converted to life in prison, AP said.
The 6-3 ruling does not address the constitutionality of capital punishment in general. In the future, the ruling will mean that people arrested for a killing will not face a potential death sentence if they can show they are retarded, generally defined as having an IQ of 70 or lower.