"He needs to understand," is by Mike Fitzpatrick and Greg Hansch in the Houston Chronicle. Fitzpatrick is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness; Hansch, the policy coordinator of NAMI-Texas.
The editorial "Texas execution stay a wise move" (Page B11, Tuesday), rightly argues that Marcus Druery deserves a hearing on his mental competency to determine if he is capable of understanding why he could be executed.
As the nation's largest grassroots organization focused on mental illness, we are gravely concerned about the potential execution of an individual who is reportedly experiencing psychiatric symptoms so severe that he may not understand why he is being executed.
Druery has been repeatedly diagnosed as having schizophrenia by the state's mental health professionals. He is reported to suffer from delusional thoughts and auditory hallucinations. He hears voices, believes that his cell is wired to broadcast his thoughts, and thinks his food is being poisoned.
He displays such severe symptoms that mental health experts for the state and for the defense all agree on his diagnosis.
The death penalty does not function as a deterrent or a punishment if the person executed does not understand why he is being put to death. The law recognizes this and has rightly prohibited those deemed mentally incompetent from being executed. We applaud the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for staying Druery's execution, and we respectfully urge the court to find that Druery is entitled to full and fair consideration of his psychiatric condition and his competence.
Earlier coverage of Marcus Druery's case begins at the link.