SCOTUS reverses death penalty sentence of Texas inmate for 2nd time

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on February 20th, 2019

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the death penalty sentence of Bobby James Moore for the second time, again finding that he lacks the mental capacity to be subjected to capital punishment.

Moore was convicted of the murder of a grocery store clerk during a botched robbery in 1980 and sentenced to death. His conviction and sentence was upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) despite his argument that he did not have the intellectual capacity to be subjected to the death penalty. In the US, it is illegal to sentence a person with a severe mental disability to death.

In 2017 the US Supreme Court vacated the decision and remanded it for further proceedings, stating that the Texas appellate court did not properly adjudicate Moore’s mental capacity in a manner that was “informed by the views of medical experts” as required by the Supreme Court’s precedent. However, following further review the CCA, Moore’s death sentence was again upheld, with the court writing that even “under the standards set forth in the DSM-5, we conclude that [Moore] has failed to show adaptive deficits sufficient to support a diagnosis of intellectual disability.”

In an unsigned opinion for the 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court again reversed Moore’s sentence. The opinion noted that although the CCA stated that they were applying tests of mental competency drawn from the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5), their judgment had “too many instances in which, with small variations, it repeats the analysis we previously found wanting, and these same parts are critical to its ultimate conclusion.” Since the CCA failed to properly apply the test laid out previously by the Supreme Court, Moore’s sentence was reversed and the case remanded to the CCA for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision.

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