Moore v. Texas

The Supreme Court yesterday overturned the death sentence of Bobby Moore, imposed by the Texas Court of Appeal, rejecting Texas’ approach to deciding which intellectually disabled people must be spared the death penalty. Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion said Texas had failed to keep up with current medical consensus, relied too heavily on I.Q. scores and took account of factors rooted in stereotypes: “Texas cannot 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why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake.”

Moore further elaborates on the court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which barred the execution of the intellectually disabled as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At the heart of the ruling is a disagreement about the presumptive value of IQ scores in cases like Mr. Moore’s where those scores are in the borderline definitional range for intellectual disability. Justice Ginsburg wrote that Mr. Moore’s I.Q. was in the range of 69 to 79, meaning that other factors had to be considered. In dissent, Chief Justice Roberts argued that two of mr. Moore’s I.Q. scores, at 78 and 74 both above the borderline “70” cutoff point, were enough to decide the case and to allow Mr. Moore’s execution.

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