Black Death Row Inmate Hopes Low IQ Gets Him Off Death Row

James Harper, Florida Courier, December 20, 2011

After hearing testimony in a Volusia County courtroom for nearly four hours from three different psychologists in the death row appeal case of Roger Lee Cherry, Judge Frank Marriott on Tuesday ordered attorneys to have their closing arguments to him by Feb. 28, 2012.

The psychologists were defense witnesses and were called to help prove that Cherry’s last IQ test of 64 is accurate and too low for him to be executed. In Florida, death row inmates must have an IQ above 70 to be executed.

Cherry previously has appealed his case claiming “that the race discrimination that permeates Volusia County and the Seventh Judicial Circuit … infected his own trial, deprived him of his rights to equal protection and freedom from cruel or unusual punishment under the state and federal constitution.”

In September 1987, Cherry was tried and convicted by an all-White jury for the murders of Leonard and Esther Wayne, an elderly White couple.

“They (the state of Florida) are saying the 64 (IQ score) is not valid. We are saying it is valid,” said Linda McDermott, Cherry’s attorney.

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Cherry, 60, sat emotionless at the Volusia County S. James Foxman Justice Center with hopes that his second appeal for a killing more than 25 years ago is successful.

Cherry had a previous IQ score of 72. A score must be below 70 to be exempt from death penalty. The average IQ in the United States is set at 100.

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Individuals with IQs below 70 have been essentially exempted from the death penalty in the U.S. since 2002.

According to court documents, Cherry burglarized the home of the Waynes in June 1986. Mrs. Wayne, 77, died of multiple blows to the head and her husband, 80, died of a heart attack.

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