In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the trial judge and reinstated Moore's death penalty. The court agreed that Moore was disabled under modern criteria - but fit for execution under the outdated and non-scientific criteria that the state judges preferred to use.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Clarence Thomas. Now Texas has been told so in indisputable terms. The CCA seemed to believe that all intellectually disabled people are, as one amicus brief put it, "incapable of any but the most rudimentary tasks", and that individuals with any "adaptive skill" can not be disabled.
For years, Texas has used a seven-part test called the Briseno standard to evaluate mental disability. Critics charge the test is unscientific and reflective of lay stereotypes about mental disability.
Evidence developed in the state habeas hearing showed that Moore had significant mental and social difficulties beginning at an early age, Ginsburg said. In the novella, by John Steinbeck, the intellectually disabled character Lennie is summarily executed after he accidentally kills a woman. Since then, some critics pejoratively refer to the method she devised as "the Lennie standard".
Ginsburg highlighted the incongruity of relying on Briseno factors only in the context of the death penalty but not in other settings, such as the assessment of a student's intellect. As Stull tells me: "The detailed decision dismantles numerous non-medical and non-scientific tests which courts, including but not limited to the CCA, have contrived to deny Atkins protection".
The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled can not be executed. "Today's Supreme Court ruling is another step towards justice for all life", Clifton stated.
The bottom line for the dissenters was that "clinicians, not judges, should determine clinical standards; and judges, not clinicians, should determine the content of the Eighth Amendment". Six years later, Moore was arrested, convicted of murder and sentenced to death. That ruling removed a legal hurdle to Moore's execution for the shotgun slaying of a Houston grocery store clerk in 1980.
More death row inmates from Harris County, where Moore was prosecuted, have been executed since the resumption of the death penalty than any other county. "As we instructed in Hall", Ginsburg explained, "adjudications of intellectual disability should be 'informed by the views of medical experts.' That instruction can not sensibly be read to give courts leave to diminish the force of the medical community's consensus". But the medical community instead focuses on adaptive deficits, and cautions against relying on adaptive strengths in controlled settings, Ginsburg said.
"Texas can not satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake", Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority in Moore v. Texas (Case No. 15-797).
"Texas can not satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake", Ginsburg said.
In Moore v. Texas, Ginsburg said the Texas judges had wrongly cited behavior such as living on the streets and playing pool as evidence that Moore had overcome his mental disability.
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office said he was disappointed in the ruling on Moore but offered no further comment.
"The Supreme Court has sensibly directed Texas courts to be informed by the medical community's current diagnostic framework before imposing our society's gravest sentence", Sloan said.
The high court's 5-3 ruling in the case of Bobby Moore, a 57-year-old man who has lived on death row for more than 36 years, said Texas' refusal to use current medical standards and its reliance on nonclinical factors violates the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.