Supreme Court Voids TX Death Sentence In IQ Case

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in favor of Texas death row inmate Bobby James Moore, saying the state’s highest criminal court failed to heed medical experts’ changing views about how best to measure intellectual disabilities, reports the Austin American-Statesman. By ignoring advances in science, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals created “an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed,” the high court said by a 5-to-3 vote. Moore was sentenced to death for the 1980 shooting of a Houston store clerk in a bungled robbery with two other men. In 2014, a state judge recommended that Moore’s death sentence be overturned, finding that he was intellectually disabled because he had an IQ under 71, had failed first grade twice and had failed every subsequent grade.

The Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), however, rejected Moore’s claim, saying the lower court used the wrong measures of intellectual disability. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said that “the CCA failed adequately to inform itself of the medical community’s diagnostic framework.” Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for three dissenters, said the majority had based its ruling “solely on what it deems to be medical consensus about intellectual disability. But clinicians, not judges, should determine clinical standards; and judges, not clinicians, should determine the content of the Eighth Amendment. Today’s opinion confuses those roles.”

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