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Supreme Court sends death-row IQ case back to lower courts


The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington is seen Jan. 31. The court sent a Texas death-row case back to lower courts March 28, saying the inmate's intellectual disability should prevent his execution. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Supreme Court sent a Texas death-row case back to lower courts March 28, saying the inmate's intellectual disability should prevent his execution.

The court's 5-3 decision reversed a Texas appeals court ruling that said inmate Bobby James Moore was not intellectually disabled based on state criteria and could face execution.

Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty, praised the Supreme Court's decision, calling it "the needed step toward justice for some of the most vulnerable in our society."

"In affirming a person with intellectual disabilities should not be executed, the court made it clear that states must uphold the needs of all of its citizens," she said in a March 28 statement.

The court's majority opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said the Texas appeals court ignored current medical standards and used outdated criteria in determining Moore's intelligence.

"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why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual's life is at stake," Ginsburg wrote.

In 2002, the Supreme Court's Atkins v. Virginia decision said executing the intellectually disabled violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment but the court largely left it up to the states to implement the ruling.

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