Supreme Court Weighs Legal Standard For Intellectual Disability
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the case of a Texas death row inmate challenging the state’s standards for determining intellectual disability.
Bobby James Moore, 57, remains on death row in the 1980 shotgun killing of James “Jim” McCarble, an elderly convenience store clerk in Houston.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Moore’s claim of intellectual disability in 2015, saying Moore didn’t meet Texas’ “Briseno factors,” a non-clinical, seven-pronged test which a judge based on the character of Lennie Smalls from John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
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Attorneys for Moore argued Tuesday that Texas is a “conspicuous outlier” in rejecting modern medical standards in favor of a subjective test of intellectual disability based in part on the views of a “consensus of Texas citizens.”
Several justices expressed misgivings Tuesday about the Lone Star State’s system for evaluating borderline cases of intellectual disability.
In what could be Moore’s last chance to avoid execution, the decision of the eight Supreme Court justices could have a lasting impact on how Texas decides whether someone’s intellectual disability should prevent them from facing execution.
The high court ruled 14 years ago that people with intellectual disability could not be put to death, but allowed states to decide how to delineate whether a person convicted of a death penalty crime was of sound mind.
A psychologist testifying for the state testified at his trial that Moore likely “suffers from borderline intellectual functioning.”
But Texas officials contend that even if conventional medical standards suggest Moore has intellectual disability, state law required that he be evaluated under the Lennie Standard that the state codified in 2004.
By that standard, they argued, Moore is eligible to be put to death.
© 2016 the Houston Chronicle
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