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State high court issues 2 death warrants

The Arizona Supreme Court decided today to issue a warrant of execution for a death-row inmate who underwent open-heart surgery in September.

The court rejected arguments of inmate Robert Moormann’s attorney, Julie Hall, who said in a written motion that the surgery could have affected his mental capacity and rendered him ineligible for the death penalty.

The court set Moormann’s execution for Feb. 29.  It also set the execution of inmate Robert Towery for March 8.

Hall wrote in a motion to the Supreme Court that the mental functioning of people who have had major cardiac surgery can be damaged, which coupled with Moormann’s already documented low intelligence, could make him ineligible for the death penalty.

Hall asked the court to postpone its decision until Moormann has had a full mental examination.

Arizona doesn’t execute people with a mental disability, which is defined as someone who has “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with significant impairment in adaptive behavior.” The onset of the condition had to have occurred before age 18.

Hall said in her written motion that Moormann, 63, who was convicted of dismembering his mother while on a temporary release from prison in 1984, was sent to Tempe St. Lukes Hospital on Sept. 14 for acute appendicitis. Doctors discovered blocked arteries. He underwent a quintuple bypass and had to be hospitalized a few weeks later to be treated for complications from the surgery.

Hall said testing from Moormann’s childhood show an IQ of about 85, but it could be much lower than that when adjusted for standard error of measurement and the possible damage from the surgery.

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