Bobby James Moore was sentenced to death by the State of Texas in 1980, when he was 20 years old. He has spent three and a half decades on death row, and the last fifteen years in solitary confinement, under constant threat of execution. Yesterday, CCR joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and Reprieve US as “amici curiae” or “friends of the court” to urge the United States Supreme Court to review Moore’s case and hold that prolonged solitary confinement awaiting execution violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
CCR’s interest in Mr. Moore’s case stems from our prior investigation of conditions on death row and time awaiting execution as a form of torture and our human rights analysis of the death penalty as practiced in California and Louisiana.
As explained in the amicus brief, Moore has spent over a decade in solitary confinement on death row in Texas, not because he violated prison rules, but because all death-sentenced prisoners in Texas are held in solitary confinement as a matter of course. This is so despite a growing domestic and international consensus against solitary confinement and significant research showing that the practice has a devastating effect on prisoners’ mental and physical health and causes an increased risk of suicide. CCR contributed extensive evidence to this field in our successful challenge to long-term solitary confinement in California, showing that solitary confinement causes “social death,” hypertension, and can lead to a post-solitary syndrome, whereby prisoners self-isolate after their release from solitary.
The death penalty is a fundamental human rights violation no matter how it is practiced, but the frequent use of solitary confinement on death rows around the country magnifies this violation, torturing death row prisoners before they are killed.
The time will come when the barbaric practice of state-sanctioned murder comes to an end in the United States. Until then, the courts must ensure that abuses like prolonged solitary confinement aren’t perpetrated on people in death row.
CCR, NRCAT and Reprieve US are represented by the Law Firm of Lewis Baach PLLC.