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North Miami cop killer to get new hearing

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A split Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered an evidentiary hearing for Leonardo Franqui, a Death Row inmate sentenced to die for the 1992 murder of North Miami police detective Steven Bauer, to determine whether Franqui is intellectually fit to be executed.

Courts had repeatedly denied requests by lawyers representing Franqui, who was also condemned to death for the 1991 murder of Raul Lopez in Hialeah, to hold another hearing to determine whether Franqui is intellectually disabled.

Thursday's 4-3 decision was based on a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Florida inmate Freddie Lee Hall that found the state's use of a threshold IQ score of 70 "creates an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed, and thus is unconstitutional."

Rather than using a fixed number IQ score, the U.S. Supreme Court in Hall's case instructed Florida courts to take into consideration other evidence such as past performance, environment and upbringing when determining whether defendants are eligible for the death penalty.

In Thursday's ruling, the majority decided that Franqui's lawyers may not have paid enough attention to factors other than his IQ --- which numerous tests found was between 75 and 83 --- to determine whether he was intellectually disabled.

"It appears that during the evidentiary hearing, Franqui may have significantly limited his presentation because he knew that he could not meet the first prong of intellectual disability due to the fact that none of his scores on the approved tests was 70 or below," the majority --- Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince and Senior Justice James E.C. Perry --- wrote in Thursday's opinion.

As a result, Franqui, now 46, did not get the "holistic" review that takes into consideration "adaptive deficits" outlined in the Hall decision, the majority found.

The court ordered a single new evidentiary hearing for Franqui in the cases involving both Bauer and Lopez.

Justices Charles Canady, R. Fred Lewis and Ricky Polston dissented without an opinion.