Criminal Justice – Supreme Court Rejects Arbitrary Definition of Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty Case

The Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in the case Moore v. Texas, reversing the death sentence of Bobby Moore. Moore was convicted of killing a store clerk as part of a botched robbery and was sentenced to death. He challenged the sentence on the grounds of intellectual disability. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruled that he did not meet its criteria for intellectual disability under the criteria it established in a previous case, Ex Parte Briseno. The “Briseno factors” are not based on any clinical standards, but rather stereotypes derived in part from the character of Lennie in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Using these standards, the Texas CCA ruled that Moore’s ability to live on the streets, mow lawns, and play pool for money precluded a finding of intellectual disability. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the death sentence, ruling that a state must base its standards for determining intellectual disability on the medical community’s diagnostic framework. For more information, read The Arc’s statement on the Supreme Court decision here.

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