That's the title of Andrew Cohen's latest Atlantic post. It' subtitled, "One prison doctor after another has diagnosed Marcus Druery as severely mentally ill. Does the Constitution permit the death penalty anyway?" Here's the beginning:
Some things are relatively simple about the case of Marcus Druery, a convicted murderer whom Texas officials plan to execute Wednesday evening at the state's death chamber in Huntsville. The details of the Halloween 2002 crime for which Druery was convicted are horrible, for example, and there is no pending legal claim that Druery is innocent or was wrongly convicted. This time, at least, no one seems to doubt that the police, the prosecutors, the witnesses, and the jurors all got the right man.
But there is one thing about the Druery case that is very complicated, indeed. No one seems to dispute that Druery now suffers from delusions and a psychotic disorder that doctors have consistently labeled as a form of schizophrenia. Nevertheless, despite these diagnoses, and despite United States Supreme Court precedent that precludes the execution of prisoners "who are unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it," Texas still intends to execute Druery.
If the courts permit, that is. Late Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the Druery execution "pending further order." The unpublished ruling means that state appellate judges want to look more closely at defense claims that Druery has shown enough evidence of incompetency to preclude his execution. The central legal question here is: Can a state execute an "Undifferentiated Type" schizophrenic? Put another way, how mentally ill does someone need to be to be too mentally ill to be executed?
If the substance of the Druery appeal has to do with a single man's mental health, the process that led us here is illustrative of the deeply flawed nature of Texas' capital punishment system. We see in this case a judge more angry about delays than he is committed to accuracy. We see prosecutors with risible disdain toward defense counsel. And we see it all in a case in which the condemned man has been judged to be seriously mentally ill over and over again by the state's own doctors.
Earlier coverage of Marcus Druery's case begins at the link.
Related posts are in the competency and mental illness category indexes. In April, I added the competency category index. Earlier posts dealing with compentency are available under the Scott Panetti index.
The Supreme Court established standards to assess whether severely mentally ill inmates are competent to be executed in a 1986 case, Ford v. Wainwright; more via Oyez.
There are several notable posts on the question of competency to be excuted: