Austin Holler


In Moore v. Texas, the Supreme Court clarified its categorical ban against the death penalty for intellectually disabled individuals, holding that states cannot disregard current medical diagnostic criteria when making a legal determination of intellectual disability. The Court continued to hone the rules from Atkins v. Virginia and Hall v. Florida and correctly found that the reliance on outdated or subjective criteria creates an unacceptable risk of imposing a cruel and unusual punishment on such individuals. Furthermore, the Court demonstrated the crucial importance of utilizing legitimate and modern clinical standards to reflect a national consensus as well as evolving standards of decency.

In the wake of Moore, states will see many appeals from individuals on the cusp of intellectual disability seeking to overturn their death sentences. Importantly, the Court’s decision to hear any such appeals may very well be colored by fluctuations within the medical community in the interim. The addition of two conservative Justices since Moore was decided, however, means the rules from Moore, Hall, and Atkins will likely cease to expand.

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