By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday faulted Texas, the U.S. leader in executions, in a death penalty case for the second time in a month and again ruled in favor of a black inmate, finding the state used an obsolete standard to assess whether he is intellectually disabled and exempt from capital punishment.
The justices, in a 5-3 decision, threw out a Texas court’s ruling upholding the death sentence of Bobby Moore, 57, who was convicted at age 20 of fatally shooting an elderly grocery store clerk during a 1980 robbery in Houston. Moore’s lawyers argue he is intellectually disabled and thus not eligible for the death penalty, and now get another chance to show that in court.
“Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that all persons with intellectual disability are exempt from execution, and that current medical standards must be used to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled,” said Cliff Sloan, Moore’s lawyer.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the execution of people who are intellectually disabled violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans cruel and unusual punishment. In Moore’s case, in a ruling authored by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court held that the Texas system for gauging the intellect of defendants is deficient.
On Feb. 22, the court gave another Texas death row inmate, Duane Buck, a chance to avoid execution because his trial was tainted by testimony from a psychologist who stated Buck was more likely to commit future crimes because he is black. Chief Justice John Roberts denounced the “noxious strain of racial prejudice” seen in that Texas case.
Since the resumption of capital punishment in the United States four decades ago, Texas has carried out 542 executions, far more than any other state. Texas has executed four inmates so far this year, more than every other state combined.
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office said he was disappointed in the ruling…