Supreme Court reverses denial of relief on Atkins claim
Posted on: 3/28/2017 02:47:32 PM by Peoples
In Moore v. Texas, 581 U.S. ___ (March 28, 2017), the Supreme Court (Ginsburg, with Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan; dissent by Roberts, with Thomas and Alito), vacated the judgment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”) which had denied relief to Bobby James Moore on his claim that he was intellectually disabled (“ID”) and therefore ineligible for execution.

The Supreme Court first found that the CCA’s conclusion that Moore’s IQ scores established that he was not ID was irreconcilable with Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. ___ (2014).  Turning to adaptive functioning, the Court ruled that the CCA’s consideration of the issue deviated both from prevailing clinical standards as well as from older ones the state court claimed to apply.  First, the CCA focused on Moore’s perceived adaptive strengths whereas “the medical community focuses the adaptive-functioning inquiry on adaptive deficits.”  In addition, the CCA stressed Moore’s improved behavior in prison despite the fact that clinicians caution against reliance on adaptive strengths developed in controlled settings.  The CCA also found that Moore’s record of academic failure and history of childhood abuse detracted from a determination that his intellectual limitations were related to his adaptive deficits.  The Court pointed out, however, that the medical community treats those things as risk factors for ID.  Indeed, “[c]linicians rely on such factors as cause to explore the prospect of [ID] further, not to counter the case for a disability determination.”  The CCA also departed from clinical practice by requiring Moore to establish that his adaptive deficits were not related to a personality disorder. The Court observed that clinical literature  recognizes the existence of coexisting conditions and states that the presence of a personality disorder or mental illness is not evidence that the person at issue is not ID.  Finally, the Court rejected the CCA’s reliance on its Briseno factors, which the Court described as having been designed and utilized to create an unacceptable risk that persons with ID will be executed.