Supreme Court prevents Texas from executing intellectually disabled man
The Supreme Court rejected a second attempt by Texas to execute Bobby James Moore, ordering the state’s top criminal court to go back and do a third review to see whether he’s too intellectually disabled to be eligible for the death penalty.
In an unsigned opinion, the justices said the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals continues to give short shrift to key factors that suggest Moore is infirm. The justices had previously said the same thing in a 2017 ruling.
The justices disapproved of the appeals court’s examination of the defendant’s skill set which cited his improvements while in prison, specifically referencing his increased reading, communication and writing levels.
“The length and detail of the court’s discussion on these points is difficult to square with our caution against relying on prison-based development,” the court wrote.
It concluded: “On the basis of the trial court record, Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability.”
Moore was convicted in 1980 of killing a 70-year-old store clerk in Houston.
The Harris County prosecutor had said Moore was intellectually disabled and shouldn’t be executed, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had asked the court to intervene and deny Moore’s appeal.
Justice Samuel A. Alito dissented from Tuesday’s ruling, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. They argued the court had overstepped its role, going beyond reviewing the lower court’s legal conclusions and instead delving into evidence presented at trial typically a role for trial courts.
“The court today takes it upon itself to correct these factual findings and reverse the judgment. This is not our role,” the dissent said. “The court’s foray into factfinding is an unsound departure from our usual practice.”