Death Penalty Gets Scrutiny in Supreme Court, States

Two death penalty cases from Texas will be reviewed during the Supreme Court’s fall session. The  court decisions could have a far reaching impact on vulnerable populations.

In the first case, Buck v. Stephens, argued Oct. 5, the court will decide if the defendant received a fair sentence after a psychologist in the trial said that Duane Buck would be a future threat because he was black.  This case goes to the heart of racial disparity in death penalty cases.

In the other case, Moore v. Texas, Bobby Moore claims that he is intellectually disabled and the state claims that Moore doesn’t meet the standards for intellectual disability.  Moore claims that the medical standards Texas used are outdated.

If the eight-member court rules 4-4 in both cases, the men could be executed.

Elsewhere, three states will be facing death penalty questions on their November ballots.  In Nebraska, voters will decide if they want to retain a bill passed by the legislature that would end the death penalty or vote to keep the death penalty on the books. In California, voters will decide if they want to replace the death penalty with life without parole. In Oklahoma, voters will be asked if they want to add the death penalty to the state’s constitution.

All of these activities continue to keep the death penalty an important public policy issue.