Mentally Ill Texas Prisoner Denied Stay of Execution Again

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Today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the latest refusal to stop the December 3rd execution of Scott Panetti, a schizophrenic man convicted of murder, by a 5-4 vote. On jurisdictional grounds alone, the court further denied time for a proper psychological evaluation of Panetti, who believed he was in a battle with Satan and off his anti-psychotic medication when he committed the murders. In his capital murder trial, he acted as his own lawyer while wearing a cowboy outfit and trying to call witnesses like JFK and Jesus.

The four-judge dissent, written imploringly by Judge Elsa Alcala, states:

…by declining to construe [Mr. Panetti’s] motion as a pleading to determine his competency under Article 46.05, this Court, at best, deprives appellant of a fair opportunity to litigate his claims, thereby violating the constitutionality required procedural protections recognized in Ford. At worst, this Court’s decision will result in the irreversible and constitutionally impermissible execution of a mentally incompetent person.

Despite Panetti’s clear mental incapacity, the state keeps choosing to blunder ahead towards unconstitutional tragedy. After a district judge denied the stay last week, newspapers and human rights advocates joined the wide coalition of groups already supporting Panetti’s case. The Dallas Morning News argued that killing Panetti isn’t “fitting for a civilized society”.

The New York Times wrote in an editorial:

A civilized society should not be in the business of executing anybody. But it certainly cannot pretend to be adhering to any morally acceptable standard of culpability if it kills someone like Scott Panetti.

The next step for Panetti’s lawyers are not clear currently. With no chance of Rick Perry seeing compassion or morality, Texans, and the country, finds itself watching a hideous death march.

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Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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