Another High Court Look at Death Penalty, Retardation

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Photo by crowbot via Flickr

Photo by crowbot via Flickr

Photo by crowbot via Flickr


The U.S. Supreme Court this fall will consider whether the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals should have upheld the death sentence of Bobby Moore based partly on outdated medical criteria and partly on what a judge called the “Lennie standard,” based on a character in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” reports the New York Times.  In 2002, the high court prohibited the execution of the intellectually disabled. It gave states much leeway to decide just who was “mentally retarded.”

A Texas judge said in 2004 that, “Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck’s Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt” from the death penalty, “but, does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?” In the case now at the Supreme Court, no one disputes that Moore, who killed a grocery clerk during a robbery, is at least mentally challenged.

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