High Court Ruling Sparing Texas Killer's Life May Finally Inspire Legislature to Act

A Supreme Court ruling last week to once again block the execution of a Houston killer may finally force the Texas Legislature to set a clear standard for whom the state deems mentally unfit for the death penalty.With its decision, the U.S. high court vacated a ruling from Texas’ highest criminal appeals court that would have allowed the execution of a man experts say is intellectually disabled.Tuesday’s ruling was the second time the court stopped the execution of Bobby James Moore, who in 1980 killed James McCarble, a 72-year-old grocery store clerk, during a Houston robbery. Moore, 59, has been on death row for nearly four decades.The Supreme Court prohibited executions of intellectually disabled people in 2002, calling them "cruel and unusual punishment," but allowed states to set their own standards for what constitutes mental disability.Now, more than 15 years after its adoption, Texas' standard, called the Briseño rules, may finally be on its way out. Critics refer to those rules as the "Lennie standard," named for the simple-minded character Lennie Small in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.  Continue reading...

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