What Last Week’s Supreme Court Opinion May Tell Us about the Current Court

Last week, the Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion summarily reversing the Texas Court of Criminal appeals and finding that a death row inmate has an intellectual disability. The case doesn’t break new doctrinal ground but it offers some possible insights about how several Justices on the newly constituted Court are positioned on capital cases.

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Insanity, Clinical Standards, and Expert Testimony

In Moore v. Texas, which I discussed here, the Supreme Court of the United States held that courts must rely on current clinical standards when determining whether a defendant is intellectually disabled and so exempt from the death penalty. Must courts also defer to clinical standards when determining whether a defendant is insane and so exempt from criminal culpability? I don’t think so, for the reasons below.

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Moore v. Texas: The Supreme Court Presses States to Comport with the Evolving Medical Understanding of Intellectual Disability

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Moore v. Texas, the third major case the Court has decided about intellectual disability (formerly, mental retardation) and the death penalty. This post summarizes the case and considers its impact on North Carolina.

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The Death Penalty, Intellectual Disability, and Warrick Dunn

The United States Supreme Court just decided a capital case about intellectual disability, formerly known as mental retardation. In some ways, it’s an “error correction” case that doesn’t break new doctrinal ground. But it stands out for two reasons. First, it may be indicative of the current Court’s attitude towards the death penalty. And second, Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion focused in large part on former professional football player Warrick Dunn.

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Intellectual Disability, IQ Scores, and the Death Penalty

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court decided Hall v. Florida, a case about the death penalty and intellectual disability. It’s an important case with implications for North Carolina. Background. In Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), the Court prohibited the imposition of the death penalty on mentally retarded defendants. The Court indicated that it … Read more


The American Psychiatric Association is about to release the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, commonly abbreviated DSM-V and pronounced “DSM five.” This is important to criminal lawyers because mental health issues are litigated in so many criminal cases, and the DSM is the generally accepted authority on mental health diagnoses. By … Read more