Bobby Moore's Supreme Court case changed how Texas defines intellectual disabilities. After 40 years in prison, he's just been granted parole.

1 year 1 week 6 days ago Tuesday, June 09 2020 Jun 9, 2020 June 09, 2020 5:23 AM June 09, 2020 in News - Local
Source: https://www.texastribune.org/
By: by Jolie McCullough, The Texas Tribune
Bobby Moore. (Photo credit: Texas Department of Criminal Justice.)

After 40 years behind prison bars — almost all of which was spent on Texas' death row — a 60-year-old man whose case changed Texas death penalty practices was granted parole Monday.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted in favor of Bobby Moore's release once a review and audit of his discharge paperwork is completed, chair David Gutiérrez said in an email obtained by The Texas Tribune to a bipartisan group of state lawmakers who advocated for his release.

Bobby Moore.
Bobby Moore. Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Moore was originally sentenced to death 40 years ago, after he fatally shot a 73-year-old clerk during a Houston robbery. But his case pinged back and forth from Texas courts to the U.S. Supreme Court since 2017, setting new standards for how Texas determines intellectual disability in death penalty cases.

The high court twice slammed Texas' method for determining the disability, which relied on decades-old medical standards and a controversial set of factors created by judges. Several men, including Moore, have since been taken off of death row after courts determined — under the new criteria formed — that they were intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

Moore was sentenced to death in 1980, before the punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole was enacted and prisoners with life sentences were eligible for parole after 20 years. Because of that, he became eligible for parole when he was resentenced to life in November. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg supported the change of sentence, but a spokesperson said Monday the office did not weigh in on the parole decision.

In March, a group of 23 bipartisan lawmakers, all of whom are part of a newly formed, bipartisan Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, sent a letter to the parole board asking for Moore's release. They said that he missed 20 years of parole reviews while wrongly on death row.

"Mr. Moore has been improperly denied both numerous parole reviews and the chance to meet some of the criteria that would weigh in his favor at them," the lawmakers said in their letter. "That is wrong, and while we will continue to work towards legislative solutions to the issues that led us here, you have the opportunity to act right now — to step in where the legislature has failed to step up."

Last year, a bill with bipartisan support inspired by Moore's case did not make it out of the Texas Legislature. The bill, authored by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat who is also a part of the caucus, was originally written to allow capital murder defendants to request pretrial hearings to determine if they are intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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