Supreme Court hears argument on Texas death penalty disability standard

Supreme Court hears argument on Texas death penalty disability standard

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard arguments [transcript, PDF] Tuesday in Moore v. Texas [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], a case challenging Texas’ standard for determining whether a person is intellectually disabled and therefore cannot be subject to capital punishment. In 2002 the Supreme Court held in Atkins v. Virginia that the Eighth Amendment’s proscription on cruel and unusual punishment makes the execution of individuals with intellectual disability unconstitutional. Then, in 2014, the court ruled in Hall v. Florida [Oyez backgrounders] that intellectual disability should be “informed by the medical community’s diagnostic framework.” At heart in the Moore case is whether, in light of the Supreme Court’s prior decisions, Texas is in violation of the Eighth Amendment [text] by relying upon a definition of intellectual disability from 1992. A decision on this case is expected this summer.

Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. Earlier this month the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a case involving the 2014 botched execution [JURIST reports] of Clayton Lockett, a death row inmate in Oklahoma. Earlier in November the legal status of the death penalty was upheld [JURIST report] by state referendum in Oklahoma, Nebraska and California. In May the Supreme Court upheld a stay [JURIST report] of execution for Alabama inmate Vernon Madison. A few days before that a Miami judge ruled [JURIST report] that Florida’s revamped death penalty law is unconstitutional because it does not require a unanimous agreement among jurors to approve executions. In April Virginia’s General Assembly voted [JURIST report] to keep secret the identities of suppliers of lethal injection drugs.