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.


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.


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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  • Ciccio

    If an I.Q. of 70 and under exempts a person from suffering the consequences of their criminality it follows logically that they should also be exempt from the benefits of citizenship, particularly the right to vote. We have seen the consequences of allowing votes for a people to stupid to know murder and they are far more dangerous than the odd murder or so.

  • Istvan

    Never fully understood the reasoning behind laws like this. The theory is that a mentally retarded, or very low IQ person, doesn’t fully understand consequences of their actions. Perhaps this is so, however, what is the point of keeping such a person alive? If their IQ is so low as to not understand the consequences of murder, what is the chance they could ever be rehabilitated and turned into useful citizens? And why should we keep them alive in prison? Why should the other prisoners be endangered by someone so dangerous? Incarceration is punishment by loss of freedom, not loss of life at the hands of other prisoners, or at least it should be. I see no truly justifiable reason to keep these people alive just because they are low IQ. They have proven themselves to be a threat to society and of no real value.

  • Urban Teacher

    Maybe we should do race norming here.

    If the average IQ of African-Americans is 85, then the equivalent of a 70 IQ for whites is 55 for them. (Ask P. Rushton to check out my math.)

  • John Engelman

    It is probably easy for someone to deliberately score poorly on an IQ test.

  • Northern Thunder

    Well, given that 70 or so is the average IQ of a black person, fully half of blacks residing in Florida can now not be executed. Shouldn’t there be a sliding scale based on race? For blacks, a 70 IQ makes them a fully functioning and average member of their “race”.

  • Bob

    Antonio Richardson, who along with three other men, raped and murdered two girls, got his death penalty reversed because he was “retarded.” One who wasn’t “retarded,” just stupid, was executed by lethal injection in Missouri. Another got life in prison, and a 15-year-old served 15 years before being released.

  • PatRiot

    TWENTY-FIVE (!!) years ago, this excrement in human form was convicted of a double murder, which he committed after planning a burglary, and to cover up that burglary. He has been living well on the taxpayer since. (Probably would have died long ago had been out on the street.) Are we to believe he didn’t know right form wrong? That beating to death an old lady wasn’t a crime? What drivel!

  • Jeddermann.

    Execute only white males that are millionaires and have IQ’s above 150. Everyone would be satisfied then. NO possibility for NAACP or ACLU appeals then. All sorts of white millionaires with IQ’s above 150 all the time murdering elderly white couples or going to liquor stores and blowing the patrons away. Happens all the time. Doesn’t it??

  • Question Diversity

    2 Istvan: Let me drop a fancy Latin legal phrase on you. Mens Rea. (Not to be confused with Men’s Room.) It is not stated in this article, but Cherry and his defense lawyers would be perfectly happy if the state dropped the drip and gave him life in prison. But by doing that, they’re admitting he had the mens rea to commit first degree murder. If he’s too stupid to execute, then why isn’t he too stupid to incarcerate for life? That’s the whole crux of their case against Cherry getting the death penalty, that his “low IQ” meant that he couldn’t possibly understand that smashing in the head of an elderly woman would kill her. If he couldn’t grok that such that he shouldn’t get the death penalty, then it stands to reason that he shouldn’t get life in prison either.

    4 John Engelman: The good news is that some judges and prosecutors have caught wise to that scam of tanking an IQ test in prison to be “retarded” to get a “get out of execution free card.” If a condemnee tries to play the Low IQ card, the judges and prosecutors will want to see school and childhood and adolescent IQ tests going back quite a ways. The inconvenient problem for the condemnee is this — Schools and other childhood education institutions have mostly jettisoned IQ tests for the racial taboo, so as time goes on, there is less and less likelihood that they’ll have a childhood IQ paper trail lying around in some file cabinet.

  • Frank

    This arbitrary cutoff of 70 is silly. Some people, I would say almost all, who have an IQ of less than 70 still know what is right and what is wrong

    What does IQ have to do with the supposed bias of the justice system in the county? Looks like they are trying to pull out all stops.

  • Roy

    But liberals have been telling us for years that IQ tests are culturally biased and meaningless. Why believe in them now?

  • Peejay in Frisco

    John Engleman: Ill bet that I can score lower on an IQ test than anyone who tries to do the same.

  • WR the elder

    So one out of six blacks can never get the death penalty, no matter how heinous a murder they commit.

    Lucky them.

    I never figured out how being stupid made you less guilty.

    Remind me to score 69 the next time I take an IQ test. I don’t intend to murder anyone but I may as well have that “Get out of the electric chair free” card.

    As #11 Ray says, this is the only situation in which liberals believe that IQ has any validity.

  • Anonymous

    They’re equal to whites in intelligence when it comes to jobs, etc. They’re low IQ morons when it comes to paying the price for their depravity. I can’t keep track of it anymore.

  • Istvan

    9 — Question Diversity wrote at 7:08 PM on December 21

    If he is too stupid to know that killing is wrong then he is too stupid, and dangerous, to ever walk among us ever again.

  • ice

    “Murderers must have an IQ above 70 to be executed.”

    Being dumb is not the same as being insane.

    Low I.Q. or not people 70 and below know the difference between right and wrong and shouldn’t be protected for being stupid.

    According to the Bell Curve, there’s a lot of blacks that are in the seventy and below category.

  • Anonymous

    Remember, all you racist whiteys:

    IQ doesn’t exist, except when liberals say it does.

  • Anonymous

    If this is the case, wouldn’t that mean more black criminals who’ve committed violent crime would be spared the death penalty? If you get handed the death penalty, then so be it, regardless of race. There shouldn’t be an IQ based criteria for that.

  • Anonymous

    Wouldn’t happen in California. It is illegal to test the IQs of blacks. It is not a law, just the order of one of our anti White marxist insane Judges. Another example of judicial tryanny.

  • danjack

    just the opposite rule should be applied. if an intelligent person commits murder there should be a fair trial and if found guilty, they should be executed. if your dog, or say a bull,or some wild animal kills someone we shoot them immediately, because they do not have the intelligence to know what they’ve done. same should apply to low IQ people, if they kill, shoot them immediately, problem solved.

  • Anonymous

    Reminds me a little bit of the movie Idiocracy. Except that this is not funny at all.

  • Ian J. MacAllister

    >IQ doesn’t exist, except when liberals say it does.

    Yep, just like DNA differences between people are trivial and of no importance – UNLESS it means getting someone off of death row, of course.

  • dd

    This is a perfect example of liberals not seeing any irony in holding completely contradictory views to make their political points. On the one hand they say there is no such thing as IQ. On the other, liberal elites regard themselves as brilliant and always the smartest person in the room. Also, they invoke low IQs when trying to nullify the death penalty.

    By the way, just what legal principle is it that creates this “right”?

  • waspranger

    There was something similar here in NYC years ago, this involved the two people who went into a Wendy’s in Flushing Queens with pistols drawn, they entered as the restaurant was closing and forced the crew to the basement where they where all tied up and gagged with tape around there mouths, as they where leaving after they had gotten what ever money was on the premises, they went back to where the people where tied up and put plastic bags over there heads and shot each one in the head, no witnesses you know. One of the people lived but all the rest where killed. These two where caught in due course and in the trial one of the two Craig Godineaux was judge not fit for trial because he had as his shyster said, the mentality of a 12-year old, I screamed, How many 12 year olds have the where through all to get a loaded weapon go and commit a robbery and kill everyone in site ! and Godineneaux got away with it, his Shyster successfully got him only life in prison, making him out to this idiot while the other John Taylor got death (his was overturned, he is now in for life). HMMM these are the very same things that the OWS crowd believe should be released from prison, right ? Wasn’t one of their demands no more life in prison without the possibility of parole?

  • Jack Krak

    Remember – IQ tests are meaningless and biased when they show that whites score higher than blacks but deadly accurate when they potentially save a murderer from facing justice. Got it?

  • Tom UK

    But what of the theory that it’s evil Whites who make Blacks score poorly? What of Whitey’s low expectations that diminish black IQ scores? What of Cherry’s “other, more relevant” intelligence?

    Seems like these tests are only allowed to mean what liberals want them to.

  • Anonymous

    Why would it not be based on the same standard as insanity? A person is legally insane if he truly was too out of it to know right from wrong, which rarely ever happens. Most serial killers don’t even fit into the insanity definition.

    So regardless of IQ, the standard should be the same as insanity. IQ should not be an issue, knowing right from wrong should be the issue. And most criminals(99 percent) do infact know right from wrong. Are they lumping all people who are labeled “retarded” as not knowing right from wrong? Isn’t that an insult to people with low IQ’s who are not criminals?

  • Dan

    The problem is that most people think because someone is put on death row they are incapable of hurting another human being. This a complete fallacy.

    Death row inmates are allowed yard time with other inmates and interact with correctional officers for visits, court writs, medical issues, showers, etc. and often attack these staff and inmates. To say a death row inmate will never hurt anyone again is simply not true.

  • Charles B. Tiffany

    Here is how to get a correct IQ score from this perp. As he starts the test have a man with an electric cattle prod standing next to him. Everytime he gets a question wrong,he gets zapped. Magically he will start to look like an MIT freshman. If he is as stupid as he wants us to believe the prodder will end up killing him, a win win situation I`d say.

    Charles B. Tiffany

    Kissimmee, Florida

  • Duran Dahl

    A black with a sub-seventy IQ is not necessarily “mentally retarded” in the manner of a Caucasian or Oriental with the same score. The higher races rely more on the advanced neocortex and less on the more primitive neurological structures, making intellectual deficits far more debilitating to them. Blacks, even when sporting distinctly low IQs are socially functional and capable of independent living within the context of state-supported ghetto savagery.

  • joe bob briggs

    The Marine Corps enlists individuals with a minimum i.q. of 69.

    If you’re mentally suited towards the commission of murder, you are mentally suited towards being held criminally responsible for your crime.

    I have no problem executing the criminally insane, the retarded, and those professing their alleged innocence. The execution of a death warrant serves the interests of the victim’s families, not the state. The state’s interests were served at the time the individual was adjudicated.

    If the victim’s family wishes to grant a commutation of sentence it should be the victim’s family who has sole purview, and responsibility, for this decision.

  • Anonymous

    Back in 2002 when the Supreme Court banned executions for the “retarded,” Ann Coulter wrote a scathing piece describing both the hypocrisy of liberals when it came to IQ testing and their faulty reasoning behind overturning death sentences for those who are smart enough to know how do poorly on one.

    She wrote in “Murdering the Bell Curve”

    “According to The Bell Curve, the truly retarded are far underrepresented in the criminal population because those with very low IQs ‘have trouble mustering the competence to commit most crimes.”

  • john

    The strange thing is after the initial IQ test which showed an IQ of 70, he was inundated with scholarship offers. Go figure.

  • white is right, black is whack

    Liberals always defend criminals, especially if the criminal is black or hispanic and the victim is white.

  • Cliff Yablonski

    Too stupid to be executed for killing people, but smart enough to vote?

    God help us.

  • EMD

    So, by extension, Cherry’s defense attorney has declared all Sub-Saharan Africans retarded. I had suspected this all along, but appreciate the confirmation.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    The Marine Corps enlists individuals with a minimum i.q. of 69.

    Do you have a source for this?

    The military uses the AFQT, a highly g-loaded, IQ-equvilent based test to screen recruits. A recruit must score at the 31st percentile or above, which roughly correlates with an IQ of of 92.

    The Educational Trust writes in Shut out of the Military:

    Recruits must score at least in the 31st percentile on the first stage of the three-hour test to get into the Army or the Marines. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard recruits must have higher scores.

    The average score for blacks is 38, for Hispanics 44, Whites, 55.

    This is because the military has found that low IQs correlates highly with discipline problems, an inability to follow commands or master basic skills such as shooting straight and in life or death situations, that’s the last thing the military wants or needs. Also, the military is now high tech and well knows that high aptitude is vital to running, maintaining and repairing complex equipment.

    Or, as Fred Kaplan writes in Slate: A dumber military is a weaker military.

    Enlistment Eligibility 2010

    The minimum AFQT score required to qualify for entry into the military varies by branch.

    Service Branch Minimum Required AFQT Score

    Army 31 [i.e., 31st percentile]

    Navy 35

    Marines 32

    Air Force 40

    Coast Guard 45


  • Anonymous

    Ref. #2.

    It is interesting to contemplate an extension of this issue to

    having longer sentences or more life sentences for the mentally

    retarded–and, perhaps to having prisoners at this level of functioning given some sort of merciful in-prison “asylum” from mixing with the typical dull-normal prison population? Unless you’ve taught or supervised the mentally retarded in

    school, you may easily make overly-optimistic assumptions about the level of responsibility they have. By traditional measures of intelligence or adaptive behavior assessment, about 25%–25%–of the Black population in the US is mentally retarded. It appears to be just another domain in which prevailing racial myths and contrived confusions work to the disadvantage of everyone.