SCOTUS Halts Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man

By Peek & Toland on April 22, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its decision in Moore v. Texas, which halted the planned execution of an intellectually disabled man in the state of Texas. In keeping with its precedent, the high Court ruled in this case that the state of Texas’s proposed execution of Moore was unlawful due to his intellectual disabilities. The Court reversed the lower state court ruling and found that Moore was ineligible for execution.

In its decision, the Court discounted the Texas court’s method of measuring intellectual disability. The state had relied on assessments concerning the man’s ability to lie and his leadership abilities, neither of which are clinically accepted methods of assessing intellectual disabilities. Rather, these assessments are extremely limited and rely on stereotypes about disabled persons in general. Texas also relied on IQ testing as a measure of intellectual disability, which also is a deeply flawed methodology for measuring intellectual disability. The decision, authored by Justice Ginsburg, specifically attacked the methodologies utilized by the Texas courts in determining the man to be fit for execution.

SCOTUS Halts Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man

The state of Texas has been attempting to execute Moore since 1980, when he was sentenced to death for his role in the robbery of a grocery store that led to a clerk’s death. The Texas Court of Appeals previously determined that Moore was not intellectually disabled due to his ability to mow the lawn, steal food, and use basic math. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, and remanded the case back to the Texas court to assess the man’s intellectual capacity based on medical or clinical expertise, rather than subjective criteria based on a character in a John Steinbeck novel that the state court cited in its decision.

After Texas still determined that Moore was eligible for execution, the Supreme Court finally stepped in and ruled otherwise. Of particular note was the fact that the Texas court solicited the opinions of five experts in measuring Moore’s intellect. Four of the five experts believe that Moore was intellectually disabled. The fifth expert disagreed, and the Texas court ultimately adopted the findings of the fifth expert, despite the opinions of the other four experts to the contrary. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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Texas Death Row Inmate Erick Davila Loses Supreme Court Appeal

By Peek & Toland on December 4, 2017

Texas death row inmate Erik Davila faces execution after losing his appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June, the justices ruled against Davila by 5-4. He now faces execution over the 2008 shooting deaths of a five-year-old girl and her grandmother in Fort Worth.

The justices examined the issue of ineffective legal representation during the June hearing. The question before the justices related to whether ineffective assistance of counsel during state appeals should be treated in the same manner as during an original trial reported the Texas Tribune.

The question has been treated differently by appellate courts throughout the country. However, Justice Clarence Thomas gave the majority opinion at the high court, saying different types of lawyers should not be treated the same. The decision rendered Davila’s case ineligible for consideration at the federal court.

Erick Davila, a death row inmate faces execution

Death row inmate Erck Davila lost his case

Thomas wrote in his opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch.

“Because a prisoner does not have a constitutional right to counsel in state post-conviction proceedings, ineffective assistance in those proceedings does not qualify as cause to excuse a procedural default.”

The state of Texas indicted Davila for capital murder stating he killed more than one person during the same transaction. During the trial, the jury was instructed on transferred intent and informed that it would be able to find Davila guilty of murder if it determined that he intended to kill one person but instead killed a different person.

The jury convicted Davila of capital murder. However, during his appeal, his appellate counsel argued that the State of Texas failed to show the necessary intent of a guilty verdict. However, the defense failed to challenge the jury instruction of transferred intent.

Murder is one of the most serious charges you can face in the State of Texas. Texas executes more people than any other state. It’s important to hire an experienced Austin criminal defense lawyer if you have been hit with this charge.

See our resources on murder here and call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Why Does Texas Lead the Nation for Executions?

By Peek & Toland on June 17, 2016

Texas has the dubious distinction of executing the most inmates in the country. It’s not even a close call. Since 1976, Texas carried out 537 executions of death row prisoners. Oklahoma, the second placed state, ended the lives of 112 in the same period, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

When the Supreme Court lifted its ban on executions in 1976, Texas quickly jumped on the bandwagon. It executed 167 people by the end of 1978.

Texas carries out the most executions

Some of the reasons why Texas executes more inmates than any other state are detailed in a recent PBS Frontline report. The article is based on a paper published by Houston law professor Brent Newton. They include:

1 Texas Does Not Have a Public Defenders System

While many states have public defenders, Texas relies on court-appointed lawyers who often lack experience in capital murder defenses or appeals. It is more difficult for defendants to avoid the death penalty than in a system with public defenders.

2 Judges Are Elected

Appellate judges in the Lone Star State are elected to office, which means they are more accountable to those that elect them. There is considerable pressure to show their toughness with criminals and handing down the ultimate sanction, is often beneficial to their election prospects.

3 Texas Has a More Streamlined Execution System

The system that leads to the execution chamber is dogged with delays and procedural issues in many states. Texas has worked ways of getting around many of these. A law enacted in 1995 expedited state appeals, reducing the time between conviction and execution.

4 Texas Fails to Allow Mitigating Factors to be Considered

Newton’s report stated Texas courts are often reticent about allowing mitigating evidence like the age of a defendant or a mental illness when considering capital charges.

California Has More Death Row Inmates but Fewer Executions

The approach of Texas when it comes to executions is very different from that of California which has the most inmates on death row – 745 but has only executed 13 since 1976.

If you have been charged with capital murder, you are more likely to be executed in Texas than anywhere else in the country. See our page about facing a murder charge in Texas, here. Although the use of the death penalty has decreased here in recent years, in line with a national trend, Texas still executes more people than any other state.

If you are charged with a homicide offense, you should be aware that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, and you have to be very careful about what you say. Never give up any evidence that can later be used against you, including your own words. Consult a Texas criminal defense attorney before speaking to the police. Contact Peek & Toland today, and we will safeguard your rights and deal promptly with your case.

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