Skip to comments.Governor asked to stop execution of mentally ill man
Posted on 02/04/2004 11:45:48 PM PST by ECTO_1
Governor asked to stop execution
No dispute over inmate's mental illness, but attorney general's office says the inmate is competent
While on trial for his life in 1995, Scott Panetti decided to defend himself. He dressed for court like a make-believe cowboy, with jeans stuffed into his boots and a cowboy hat dangling from a string around his neck. He tried to call John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and Anne Bancroft as witnesses for his defense.
"If you sacrifice one sheep, two destroy the wolf; that does not make that sheep guilty," he told the jury in closing arguments, one of the many nonsensical statements he made in court.
There is virtually no dispute that Panetti was mentally ill then, and is now. Before going to death row, he had been hospitalized 14 times for schizophrenia, manic depression, hallucinations and paranoia.
He is scheduled to be executed Thursday evening. Defense lawyers and mental health advocates on Tuesday called on Gov. Rick Perry to grant Panetti a reprieve, hoping to buy more time for the 45-year-old convicted double murderer while they attempt to show that he is legally incompetent to be executed.
"No decision has been made," said Perry spokesman Robert Black. "We're certainly not going to make a decision prematurely. This is something the governor gives a lot of weight and consideration to."
The request to Perry, and a last-ditch appeal now pending before U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, are the only avenues Panetti has left to avoid what critics call a farce and a mockery of justice -- that prosecutors and judges allowed a mentally ill man to represent himself while facing the possibility of a death sentence. Kerr County District Attorney Bruce Curry, who prosecuted Panetti, could not be reached for comment. State District Judge Stephen Ables, who presided over the trial, declined to comment.
But state and federal appeals courts have found nothing wrong with Panetti's trial, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal, and the state attorney general's office has told Sparks that Panetti is competent enough to be executed.
With no way left of overturning his sentence, Panetti's defenders now believe the best they can do is delay it. "It is an absolute outrage that the criminal justice system has completely broken down in this case," said Andrea Keilen, a lawyer with the Texas Defender Service, which handles capital appeals. "This individual was truly incompetent to stand trial."
Panetti was convicted of killing his in-laws in 1992, shooting Joe and Amanda Alvarado with a sawed-off shotgun at their Fredericksburg home. Panetti was looking for his estranged wife and their 3-year-old daughter. Both were at the home and witnessed the killings. Panetti took them to his cabin and held them hostage before putting on a suit and turning himself in.
The first jury that was asked to decide whether Panetti was competent to stand trial couldn't agree, but a second jury found him competent. Then Panetti decided to represent himself. Kerrville lawyer Scott Monroe was appointed as Panetti's standby counsel but was ordered to do nothing unless Panetti asked for help.
"I basically sat and watched Scott give himself the death penalty," Monroe said. "It was very obvious from his mannerisms and the way he conducted himself that he was mentally ill. . . . Everybody that walked into that courtroom could see it."
Panetti's guilt was not in question, but his sanity was, Monroe said, and a real lawyer could probably have saved him from a death sentence.
Since his conviction, several mental health professionals who treated Panetti have signed affidavits saying he should never have been allowed to handle his own defense.
His ex-wife has signed a statement saying she knows "that Scott is mentally ill and should not be put to death." The National Mental Health Association and Amnesty International have asked that he be spared. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mentally ill inmates can be executed if they understand that their death is imminent and comprehend why they are being punished.
Panetti seems to realize that he is about to be executed but doesn't grasp why, said Michael Gross, his current lawyer. Gross said there is no money for another evaluation to determine his current mental state. Gross hopes his word will be enough to persuade Perry or Sparks to delay the execution and allow a complete exam.
That's it! Don't execute him -- sentence him for life taking one commercial flight after another (although this might be deemed cruel and unusual punishment).
This action might or might not prove he's nuts. It might be the action(s) of a cold blooded killer or a paranoid; though the fact that he was deliberately looking for his ex-wife and child at this ex-in-laws' tends, IMHO, to tip the scale somewhat towards the former.
...Panetti took them to his cabin and held them hostage before putting on a suit and turning himself in.
If I were the judge (or on the jury) these actions would be the deciding factor:
- By kidnapping his child and ex-wife, and going (fleeing?) to his cabin he was conscience of the fact that he had done wrong/evil/bad and sought to get away.
- The fact that he out on a suit means that he felt he needed to look "respectable" hence not the kind of man who would do this act. This a sign that he knew good(guys) vs. bad(guys), social expectation re: dress and the social preconceived notions about it, etc.
- "...and turned himself".
The fact that he turned himself in meant that he knew the police were there for a reason -- they were after him -- and the reason the police were there was because he -- not his wife or child -- had done something bad/wrong/evil.
In a nutshell: The legal definition of insanity is when the doer of the deed does not know the difference between right and wrong -- ever and/or at the time of the action.
The fact that this man did the above things,i.e. fled, changed his clothes, surrendered to the authorities mean that -- even if for only that short span of time -- he did know right from wrong and therefore is guilty of the the crime of which he had been charged.
If it is proven that he is nuts at this point in time, he should be reprimanded to a lunatic asylum for the rest of his life.
If it is shown that he was sane than (his action and/or that he was on the proper Rx at the time) and at this point in time, then he should face the full consequences of his actions.
Remember the Dukakis furlows and the murder/rape in MD that he allowed? The murderer you sentance to life is paroled with the next liberal judge.
I agree with DNA testing, but wish we had that for all criminals. The ACLU will not stand for that. Wonder why.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.