The United States Supreme Court sided with a Texas death row inmate who argued he should not be executed because he is intellectually disabled.
By a 5-3 vote, the justices reversed a Texas appeals court ruling that held inmate Bobby James Moore was not intellectually disabled.
In her majority opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that Texas’s top criminal appeals court ignored medical standards and required the use of outdated criteria when it decided Moore wasn’t mentally disabled. The ruling removed a legal hurdle to Moore’s execution for the shotgun murder of a Houston grocery store clerk 37 years ago.
The decision was the second this term in which the high court has ruled for a Texas death row inmate. In February, the justices said race improperly tainted inmate Duane Buck’s death sentence.
Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
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.
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.
During the fatal robbery of 72-year-old Houston supermarket clerk James McCarble, Moore wore a wig and fled to Louisiana afterward, and had represented himself in legal actions, showing the required intellectual capabilities, the state contends.
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