Naeem Williams is already convicted of murdering his five-year-old daughter Talia. The former Schofield soldier is now waiting to see whether or not he'll be sentenced to death for the crime. On Tuesday, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could help spare his life, experts say.
The high court ruled that states cannot rely on IQ tests alone to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible for execution.
"There should be a much more broad introduction of evidence, the childhood, whether or not he has disabilities, whether he had problems in school. It's all relevant now because the Supreme Court is saying in effect, don't make mistakes," said Williamson Chang, a law professor at UH Manoa.
In the past, inmates with IQ scores above 70 would not be able to claim intellectual disability. That's because a score of 70 is widely accepted as a marker of mental impairment. However, medical professionals say people who score as high as 75 can still be considered intellectually disabled due to the margin of error. Naeem Williams scored a 77.
"The standard deviation, that is how much error there can be is at least five points so he could have been as low as 72," said Chang.
Chang believes the federal judge in this case should re-open the death eligibility phase that wrapped up last Friday to make sure the decision doesn't get overturned later in a higher court.
"In a state like this you want to err on the side of caution because what the Supreme Court is really saying is that the execution of a mentally retarded person is not an indication of a decent civilized society," said Chang.
The next phase of Naeem Williams trial is for sentencing. That starts in federal court Wednesday.