intellectual disabilities Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

Bobby Moore, who spent 40 years on death row, granted parole

Bobby Moore was removed from death row in December 2019 after years of legal wrangling and two reversals by the U.S. Supreme Court related to his intellectual disability, which made him ineligible for execution. Yesterday – 40 years after a Harris County jury sentenced him to death – he was granted parole by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Now 60 years old, Moore was one of the longest-serving death row inmates in Texas.  

Read coverage from the Texas Tribune:

In March 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Moore v. Texas required the state of Texas to use current medical standards in assessing whether a person is intellectually disabled and therefore exempt from execution.  The Justices determined the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) had relied on outdated, non-scientific criteria in finding that Bobby Moore was not intellectually disabled, which did not comport “with the Eighth Amendment and this Court’s precedents.” They sent the case back to the CCA for further proceedings.  

In June 2018, a five-judge majority on the CCA once again relied on lay stereotypes and non-scientific criteria in rejecting Moore’s claim he is exempt from the death penalty because he is intellectually disabled.  They disregarded agreement by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which acknowledged Moore’s intellectually disability and asked the court to re-sentence him to life in prison, as well as the ruling of Harris County District Court Judge Susan Brown, who deemed Moore intellectually disabled by current medical standards after conducting an evidentiary hearing in 2014. They also ignored the views of prominent Texans across the political spectrum, religious institutions and faith leaders, intellectual disability organizations, medical organizations, and leaders of the legal profession that Moore should be exempt from the death penalty based on evidence of his intellectual disability.  

The case went back to the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time in early 2019, and again, the Justices reversed the CCA and ruled that Moore is intellectually disabled and should be exempt from the death penalty.  

On November 6, 2019, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals finally commuted Moore’s death sentence to life in prison due to his intellectual disability.   Under the statute in effect when he was sentenced to death in 1980 and the length of time he has spent in prison, he was immediately eligible for parole.