Roberts Sides With Liberals in Death Penalty Case

Roberts Sides With Liberals in Death Penalty Case February 20, 2019

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court in rebuking a lower court for failing to follow their instructions when a case involving whether a man sentenced to death was mentally incompetent or not when the high court remanded it back for new proceedings.

For the second time in as many weeks, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has sided with liberal Supreme Court justices to disagree with how lower courts have interpreted Supreme Court precedent.

On Tuesday, Roberts was pointed in saying the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has “misapplied” a 2017 ruling that instructed that court to reconsider its analysis of whether death row inmate Bobby James Moore was intellectually disabled, and thus ineligible for execution.

“On remand, the court repeated the same errors that this court previously condemned,” Roberts wrote, concurring in the majority’s finding Tuesday that Moore “is a person with intellectual disability.”…

The Texas court’s review of Moore “did not pass muster under this court’s analysis last time,” Roberts wrote in a separate opinion. “It still doesn’t.”

Interestingly, when the case first went up to the Supreme Court, Roberts was in the minority in ruling against the defendant. So did he change his mind? No. He just believes, as he should, that the decision he disagreed with is the controlling precedent and the lower courts are bound to abide by it whether he agrees with it or not. That’s a chief justice taking a position that is not driven by ideology but by a proper understanding of the role of precedent and the job of the lower courts to apply it properly.

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