A Texas inmate with intellectual disabilities is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule his death sentence for a second time.
In March 2017, the high court ruled that Texas used outdated medical standards to determine intellectual disabilities. The justices sent back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals the case of Bobby Moore. Moore, 57, received the death sentence in 1980 after he, along with two other men, shot and killed a store clerk. In 2014, a Texas state court ruled that Moore was intellectually disabled and therefore constitutionally ineligible for execution. But the Court of Criminal Appeals said the state’s 2004 standard showed other factors could be behind Moore’s slow learning and poor functioning as a child and he could be executed.
This summer, the Texas court changed its medical criteria for intellectual disabilities, as the Supreme Court ordered, but upheld Moore’s death sentence again despite defense attorneys and prosecutors agreeing he was intellectually disabled. Moore’s lawyers appealed again to the Supreme Court in October, and Harris County prosecutors filed a brief last month supporting the appeal.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr wrote about Moore’s case in an op-ed for the Washington Post: “I am not an abolitionist on the death penalty. … But I also believe we must vigilantly observe the constitutional constraints on this ultimate sentence. In our constitutional system, courts must carefully adhere to Supreme Court decisions on all issues—especially on this vitally important subject of life and death.” —C.C.
The rate of overdose deaths in the United States last year was so high that it contributed to a lower average life expectancy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released three reports in November charting trends from 1999 to 2017. One report on mortality in the United States showed a dip in American life expectancy to 78.6 years. The CDC attributes the decrease to the rise of drug overdose deaths and suicides. Another report in late November showed more overdose deaths in 2017 than any other year in U.S. history. More than 70,237 people died last year from a drug overdose, 9.6 percent more than in 2016.
Most of those people overdosed on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 80 to 100 times stronger. Fentanyl is a Schedule II drug, meaning it is highly addictive but has a known medical use. It is typically prescribed to cancer patients to reduce pain and is increasingly gaining popularity in the illegal drug market—even more so than heroin. —C.C.