Houston's KPRC-TV reported last night on Raymond Riles, a severely mentally ill Texas death row inmate who is incompetent to be executed. "Is 30 Years Too Long On Texas Death Row?"
His case has sparked a debate of what to do with inmates spending decades waiting for an execution. Local 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis uncovers why Riles' case could change the future of Texas' death row.
"They told me they were going to kill me unless I stopped preaching my mystic gospel," Riles told us during an interview from death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. "God is the greatest and I didn't come to die on death row."
As Riles speaks, you're almost able to read his mind -- by not understanding it.
"They're trying to silence me because I know about the satanic secret societies of the TDC shadow government e-system," said Riles.
His mind appears mixed-up, full of delusions and paranoia. This is the latest chapter of Riles' story -- 33 years of crime and punishment.
Riles committed his crime back in 1974. He was convicted of killing Houston used-car salesman John Henry during a 1974 robbery. A Harris County jury sentenced Riles to death.
But 33 years later, Riles still waits on death row with no execution date and no plans for one.
"It's because he's incompetent to be executed," explained Roe Wilson, an assistant district attorney for Harris County.
Wilson handles death row appeals and says Riles case is that simple. Mental health experts have ruled Riles doesn't understand why his execution is imminent, or understand exactly why he's being executed. That makes him mentally incompetent, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If an inmate can't be executed, should he or she remain on death row?
A new call is coming from a nationwide association of attorneys, death penalty opponents, and a U.S. group of mental health experts to change the way mentally ill inmates are treated on death row.They all say a life sentence is more appropriate.
"It makes no sense for the state to keep someone on death row under severe conditions, when he's been recognized as severely ill," said Kristin Houle', with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Austin.
On death row, all inmates spend 23 hours a day in their cell. Houle' calls that cruel and unusual punishment for the mentally ill, claiming it gives inmates little access to psychiatric care.
The state disagrees.
"That really is not a factor in this case," said Wilson. "What the factor is, is that (Riles) was competent when he was tried and given a legal sentence. His confinement is still legal and he simply has a condition right now that makes him not eligible for execution. But that could change."
The report also notes:
Courts and doctors have ruled five other death row inmates from Harris County are also mentally incompetent to be executed. Any change in Riles' case or state law could have a direct effect on many Texas inmates.
The Supreme Court ruling referenced is the 1986 case, Ford v. Wainwright. Competency to be executed is also an issue in the case of Scott Panetti. StandDown's mental illness index is here. This is also a good opportunity to spotlight Kristin Houle's Prevention Not Punishment blog.