This week the U.S. Supreme Court, in Moore v Texas, struck down the way Texas was determining which inmates are intellectually disabled, thereby protecting them from execution. In a 5-3 decision, the high court ruled that Texas’ use of an outdated and unscientific method of determining “intellectual functioning” violated the 8th Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.
In 2002 in Atkins v Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities. However, it allowed the states to create the standard for determining which inmates fit the category. Instead of using the medical community’s modern diagnostic framework, Texas used obsolete, unscientific standards developed in 1992, as well as factors based on stereotypes of disabled people.
Under the ruling, Texas must now use “current medical standards” in determining intellectual disability in capital cases. The inmate, Bobby James Moore, will now have his case sent back to Texas’ highest criminal court for re-evaluation.