Top Texas court says condemned inmate not mentally disabled
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas’ highest criminal court narrowly ruled Wednesday that a death row inmate is mentally capable enough to execute, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that his intellectual capacity had been improperly assessed and agreement by his lawyer and prosecutors that he shouldn’t qualify for the death penalty.
In a 5-3 ruling with one judge not participating, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said it reviewed the case of convicted killer Bobby James Moore under guidance from the Supreme Court’s March 2017 decision and determined that Moore isn’t intellectually disabled based on updated standards from the American Psychiatric Association.
“It remains true under our newly adopted framework that a vast array of evidence in this record is inconsistent with a finding of intellectual disability,” the Texas court’s majority wrote. “We conclude that he has failed to demonstrate adaptive deficits sufficient to support a diagnosis of intellectual disability.”
The Supreme Court last year said the state court used outdated standards to reach its earlier decision on Moore.
In a lengthy dissent joined by judges Bert Richardson and Scott Walker, Judge Elsa Alcala wrote that the majority got it wrong.
“The majority opinion’s assessment of the evidence in this record is wholly divorced from the diagnostic criteria that it claims to adhere to,” she wrote.
The ruling came despite Harris County prosecutors telling the court they believed Moore is mentally disabled and shouldn’t be found eligible for the death penalty.
Cliff Sloan, who argued Moore’s case before the Supreme Court, said Wednesday’s ruling was “inconsistent” with the high court’s decision.
“As the dissent says, the CCA’s ruling is clearly an outlier that is inconsistent with the controlling intellectual disability standards, the views of the Harris County District Attorney, and a wide range of intellectual disability organizations,” Sloan said.
Moore, 58, was convicted of the April 1980 shooting death of a 72-year-old Houston grocery store clerk, James McCarble, during a robbery. He’s been on death row for nearly 35 years.
In 1999, an appeals court threw out his death sentence, finding that he received deficient legal help at his trial. Reconsidering his sentence in 2001, a jury again sentenced Moore to death.
The Supreme Court, which has barred execution of mentally disabled people, ruled 5-3 last year in Moore’s favor, sending his case back to the state court.
The high court has given states some discretion to decide how to determine intellectual disability and justices have wrestled in several more recent cases about how much discretion to allow. Texas looks at three main points to define intellectual disability: IQ scores, with 70 generally considered a threshold; an inmate’s ability to interact with others and care for him- or herself, and whether evidence of deficiencies in either of those areas occurred before age 18.