Supreme Court seems to favor Texas death row inmate



A majority of justices during arguments at the high court expressed misgivings with the way the top Texas criminal appeals court evaluates borderline cases of intellectual disability.

That court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, reversed a lower court and ruled that inmate Bobby James Moore was not intellectually disabled. Moore was convicted in the shotgun killing of a Houston grocery store clerk in 1980.

The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed. The court gave states some discretion to decide how to determine intellectual disability. The justices have wrestled in several more recent cases about how much discretion to allow.

The Texas court’s approach, said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, opens “the door to inconsistent results, depending on who is sitting on the trial court bench, something we try to prevent from happening in capital cases.” The court’s three other liberal justices and Justice Anthony Kennedy, voiced similar concerns.

Two years ago, Kennedy and the four liberal justices formed a majority when the court ruled unconstitutional a Florida law that barred any other evidence of intellectual disability if an inmate’s IQ was over 70.

Texas looks at three main points to define intellectual disability: IQ scores, with 70 generally considered a threshold; an inmate’s ability to interact with others and care for him- or herself and whether evidence of deficiencies in either of those areas occurred before age 18.

The state, defending the Texas court ruling, said Moore had a troubled childhood with little supervision and scored 57, 77 and 78 on IQ tests before dropping out of school in the ninth grade. He’d been convicted four times of felonies by age 17 but never was diagnosed with an intellectual disability as a youth, the state argued.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller urged the justices to leave the state court ruling in place, arguing that the Texas court does not always rule for the state in cases in which defendants claim they are intellectually disabled.

Representing Moore, Washington lawyer Clifford Sloan said Texas does not rely on clinical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability, which he said stands “in sharp contrast” to the earlier Supreme Court rulings.

A decision in Moore v. Texas, 15-797, is expected by June.


Reader Comments


Next Up in News

Stop the 'Medi-scare' politics, Paul Ryan tells Democrats
Stop the 'Medi-scare' politics, Paul Ryan tells Democrats
Medicare needs to be revamped, House Speaker Paul Ryan emphasized Thursday, as he blasted Democrats for insisting Republicans are planning a war on...
Bodies of missing mother and daughter found in well
Bodies of missing mother and daughter found in well
Martin County authorities say the bodies of a mother and teenage daughter were found in a well, three days after they were reported missing.
Democrats want to require Trump nominees to provide tax returns
Democrats want to require Trump nominees to provide tax returns
Senate Democrats are pushing to require President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees to release their tax returns, which Trump refused to do...
Austin looking to break Guinness World Record for spooning
Austin looking to break Guinness World Record for spooning
via Facebook Still bothered that you can’t be simultaneously both the big and little spoon? Ever been spooning and thought, “Wow, I...
Buda City Council candidates take different tack to woo runoff voters
Buda City Council candidates take different tack to woo runoff voters
Runoff candidates tend to have a tough time bringing out the vote. And after an overall election season as explosive as this year’s, the final two...
More Stories

You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com.

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of free premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.