10:48, March 28 407 0 abajournal.com

2017-03-28 10:48:04
Supreme Court strikes down Texas mental disability standards for death-penalty eligibility

Developing: The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the standards used by the state of Texas to determine whether an inmate has a mental disability that makes him ineligible for the death penalty.

The court ruled on Monday in a 5-3 decision (PDF). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The court ruled in the case of Bobby James Moore, who shot and killed a store clerk in a robbery. A state habeas court had found Moore was intellectually disabled, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said the habeas court had wrongly used medical community guidelines to determine mental disability, rather than guidelines established by the state’s top criminal appeals court.

The Supreme Court vacated the Court of Criminal Appeals judgment. “Adjudications of intellectual disability should be ‘informed by the views of medical experts,’” Ginsburg wrote, citing a 2014 Supreme Court decision.

“Moreover,” Ginsburg wrote, the factors established by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals “are an invention of the CCA untied to any acknowledged source,” and they create an unacceptable risk that a person with an intellectual disability will be executed.

Evidence developed in the state habeas hearing showed that Moore had significant mental and social difficulties beginning at an early age, Ginsburg said. “At 13,” Ginsburg wrote, “Moore lacked basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, and the seasons; he could scarcely tell time or comprehend the standards of measure or the basic principle that subtraction is the reverse of addition.” He failed every subject in the ninth grade and dropped out of school.

The ABA had filed an amicus brief that argued the Texas standards violate the Eighth Amendment.

The case is Moore v. Texas.

Lady Justice slips on a banana peel.

Does the Oxford comma get under your skin? Do you insist on that extra space after a period?