The state attorney general's office asked to take over death row inmate Bobby James Moore's case on Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reported. The request to replace the district attorney on the case came a day after Harris County prosecutors sided with Moore in a U.S. Supreme Court filing, asking the high court to determine that a Texas appeals court ruling in June was wrong.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has decided twice that Moore is fit to execute, despite his apparent deficiencies.
Moore was convicted of fatally shooting a Houston grocery store clerk in 1980 during a robbery. Moore has fought his appeals for more than three decades and was once within hours of being executed before it was called off.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Texas hadn't properly measured intellectual disability in cases like Moore's for years. But Moore's case eventually returned to the Supreme Court last month, despite the district attorney's office agreeing to a more lenient life sentence.
"As far as counsel is aware, this Court never has permitted an execution when both the prosecutor and the defendant agree that the defendant is intellectually disabled and ineligible for execution," Moore's attorneys, Cliff Sloan and Pat McCann, wrote in a Supreme Court filing. "For good reason."
It's unusual for prosecutors in a death penalty case to agree with the defense that a defendant should be spared from execution.
The attorney general criticized the DA's reversal of a past position that Moore is mentally capable enough to execute.
"The DA, who represents just one of Texas's 254 counties, does not represent the Attorney General's interest," Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote to the court.
Paxton contends that death penalty cases require arguments from two sides, saying that prosecutors aren't providing true opposition by agreeing with the defense.
Texas determines intellectual disability based on IQ scores, with 70 generally considered a threshold; an inmate's ability to interact with others and care for himself or herself; and evidence of deficiencies in either of those areas before age 18.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com
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