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Opinion analysis: A victory for intellectually disabled inmates in Texas

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Amy Howe Reporter and Independent Contractor

Posted Tue, March 28th, 2017 1:51 pm

 

Opinion analysis: A victory for intellectually disabled inmates in Texas

A Texas death-row inmate will get a shot at a new sentence after the Supreme Court ruled today that a state court applied the wrong standards to conclude that he was not intellectually disabled and therefore could be executed. Bobby James Moore was convicted and sentenced to death for shooting a supermarket employee during a 1980 robbery. But Moore argued that he was exempt from execution because he was intellectually disabled – for example, he failed first grade twice, still did not grasp basic principles like telling time at the age of 13, and had suffered a “debilitating” injury when he was hit in the head with a chain and a brick during the battle over integrating public schools.

 

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – the state’s court of last resort for criminal cases – rejected Moore’s challenge to his death sentence. It relied on its 2004 decision in another case, Ex parte Briseno, involving an inmate’s intellectual disability. Briseno used a set of 1992 standards for evaluating intellectual disability, along with several “evidentiary factors” that take into account, among other things, whether the people who knew the inmate best when he was growing up regarded him as intellectually disabled. Moore asked the Supreme Court to weigh in; today the justices, by a vote of 5-3, vacated the Texas court’s ruling and sent the case back for a new look. Scissors-32x32.png

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moore.jpg
Photo: Texas Department of Corrections

Bobby James Moore
1x1maroon.gifLOCATION:
Texas
1x1maroon.gifOFFENSE: Convicted in the 1980 shooting death of 73-year-old clerk, James McCarble, during a grocery store robbery.
1x1maroon.gifAT ISSUE: Incompetent defense; juror confusion.
1x1maroon.gifDETAILS: Moore was sentenced to death after his first trial, but a 1995 federal district court ruled that he would have been sentenced to life in prison were it not for the "gross incompetence" of his trial lawyer. His attorneys had failed to introduce exculpatory and mitigating evidence. The death sentence was set aside, and Moore was given a second trial to determine his sentence. The jury foreman in Moore's re-sentencing trial said the jurors in the second trial did not understand many of the questions posed in their instructions. He stated that when they asked the judge to clarify terms like mitigation, the judge refused.
1x1maroon.gifSTATUS: Moore is currently on Death Row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas and his case is on appeal.
1x1maroon.gifScissors-32x32.png

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