Over the last three decades, the state of Texas has executed 518 people – a shockingly high number, even by international standards – all while celebrating a “culture of life.” Tomorrow, Scott Panetti is slated to become the 519th.
Scott Panetti is just about out of options. On Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST, the state of Texas will end his life, even though his lawyers say Panetti is severely mentally ill and an execution would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. One of the only people who can stop the execution, at least temporarily, is Gov. Rick Perry (R).But with time running out, Perry is so far staying silent, despite mounting pressure on him to intervene.Panetti is on death row for the 1992 murder of his in-laws, whom he killed while his wife and daughter were watching…. On Monday afternoon, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted not to recommend that Panetti’s death sentence be commuted to life in prison.
Michele Richinick reported this afternoon on an unexpected political twist: 21 conservatives, including notables such as former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), “joined mental health and death penalty reformers in opposing the execution, and wrote a letter to Perry asking him to change Panetti’s sentence to life in prison…. ‘Mr. Panetti is one of the most seriously mentally ill prisoners on death row in the United States. Rather than serving as a measured response to murder, the execution of Mr. Panetti would only serve to undermine the public’s faith in a fair and moral justice system,’ they recently wrote.”
It’s an interesting argument. We’re not talking about opponents of capital punishment; we’re talking about people who are afraid that Texas killing a sick man will make it harder to sustain public support for broader system of executions.
We’ll have more on this on tonight’s show, but the msnbc report added some helpful context:
Panetti has been admitted to the hospital at least 14 separate times, and has a more than 30-year history of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. He hasn’t gone through a mental evaluation since 2007. Consequently, his attorneys are seeking to remove him from death row, or at least postpone his execution date to undergo additional psychological testing to determine if he is competent for execution. Panetti’s legal team wasn’t aware of the judge’s decision to execute him on Dec. 3 until they read about the plan in a newspaper article. But they filed a motion earlier this month requesting that Perry stay the execution for 30 days, a period of time they say is sufficient enough for another assessment.
At trial, Panetti represented himself, dressed like a cowboy, and subpoenaed John F. Kennedy.
The Atlantic added, “Panetti has suffered from schizophrenia and other mental illness for over thirty years. He first exhibited signs of a psychotic disorder as a teenager. Beginning in 1978, he was hospitalized for mental illness on fifteen separate occasions. He developed a delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. He tried to exorcize his home by burying furniture in the backyard because, he claimed, the devil was in it. He was involuntarily committed after swinging a sword at his wife and daughter and threatening to kill them.”