Houston death row inmate makes argument before US Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court is hearing the case of a Houston man on death row, a case that could change the way the state sentences those with intellectual disabilities.

57-year-old Bobby James Moore has been on death row for 36 years. For three decades, Moore has fought his punishment, claiming his intellectual disabilities have been ignored by state courts and that it is a violation of his constitutional rights.

In 1980, Moore was convicted of killing a cashier at a convenience store in Houston.

His attorney argued before the Supreme Court Tuesday that the way Texas determines if a person is intellectually disabled is both unscientific and unconstitutional.

Moore's counsel also argues that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ignored current medical standards, which include one's IQ and their adaptive functioning when they overturned a trial judge's 2014 decision that found Moore is mentally disabled.

Houston attorney Jeff Newberry represents inmates like Moore and says this case is ultimately about Texas imposing it's own criteria of what constitutes intellectual disability.

"The reason it’s problematic is because judges are not mental health professionals. They should not be crafting definitions of what it means to be intellectually disabled. There are mental health professionals that do that,” said Newberry.

The state maintains it's position in Moore's case, in a statement issued to Fox 26 by the Texas Attorney General's Office, Spokesman Marc Rylander wrote, "Texas' standard for intellectual disability is constitutional and fits well within the national consensus among states about how to define intellectual disability."

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on Moore's case by June 2017. Moore will remain on death row in Livingston, Texas until then.