"Steven Staley capital case reveals another glaring flaw in Texas death penalty," is the editorial in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Staley has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic who has severe delusions when he isn't taking antipsychotic medication.
For years now, his defense team has argued that it would violate the Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to forcibly medicate Staley to make him lucid enough to comprehend his execution. Prosecutors also argue that the drugs are for Staley's benefit. But clearly having him mentally healthy enough to execute benefits the state, not Staley.
The case has wended its way through the courts, with execution dates being set and then lifted because of the difficulty of finding the correct balance.
In 2006, state District Judge Wayne Salvant in Fort Worth allowed the state to forcibly medicate Staley. But that was appealed, and the issue still isn't settled. Staley was set for execution today, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay Monday, so the debate will continue.
Staley certainly must be punished for wantonly taking a life. Is forcing him to take dangerous drugs just to make him competent long enough for the state to kill him the only way to accomplish the societal goal of enforcing the rule of "Thou shalt not kill"?
If the answer is "yes," that's one more glaring flaw in Texas' capital punishment system.
If the answer is "no," commuting Staley's death sentence to life imprisonment would achieve punishment without the disturbing precedent that would be set by drugging him to administer a fatal injection.
Earlier coverage of Steven Staley's case begins at the link.