Jenner & Block

US Supreme Court Agrees with Firm Brief in Texas Death Penalty Case

The US Supreme Court relied on an amicus brief written by the firm when it ruled that a Texas man is intellectually disabled and, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty.

In Bobby James Moore v. Texas, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had held that Mr. Moore did not have intellectual disability and was eligible for the death penalty.  Previously, the Supreme Court vacated the appeals court’s decision and remanded the case for further consideration of the issue.  The appeals court reconsidered but reached the same conclusion. 

On February 19, 2019, the Court, in a per curiam decision, reversed that holding.

Mr. Moore, who was found to have an IQ of 70, was sentenced to death after a robbery attempt in which he shot and killed a store employee.  At issue was whether it violates the Eighth Amendment to proceed with an execution when the prosecutor and the defendant both agree that the defendant is intellectually disabled and may not be executed.  In his petition for certiorari, Mr. Moore argued that the trail court record demonstrated his intellectual disability and that even the prosecutor agreed that Mr. Moore could not be executed.

In its decision, the Court cited the amicus brief filed on behalf of the American Psychological Association, which supported Mr. Moore’s position.  In particular, the Court noted the APA brief’s argument against stereotypes that the intellectually disabled don’t have jobs, as Mr. Moore did.  The APA brief, and the Court, noted that it is estimated that between nine and 40 percent of people with intellectual disabilities have some form of employment.  “We ... agree with Moore and the prosecutor that, on the basis of the trial court record, Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability,” the Court said.

The brief was written by Partner Jessica Ring Amunson, co-chair of the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice, and Associate James S. Dawson.