"Court Rules Judge Didn't Have Right to Forcibly Medicate Death Row Inmate," is Jordan Smith's post at the Austin Chronicle.
A split Court of Criminal Appeals today ruled that a Fort Worth court did not have the legal right to force a mentally ill death row inmate to be medicated in order to make the defendant competent to be executed.
The ruling, by a 5-4 majority of the court, sends the case of Steven Staley vacates the trial court's order forcing his medication, but is silent on whether the Texas Constitution would absolutely forbid the execution of someone forcibly drugged or whether Staley is too ill to be executed at all.
Staley has been on death row for 22 years for the 1989 murder of Robert Read in the aftermath of a botched robbery attempt by Staley and two accomplices at a Fort Worth Steak & Ale restaurant. After moving to death row in 1991, his mental health began a marked deterioration, according to court records, and his first execution date, in February 2006, was ultimately stayed because he was too ill to be executed. The state subsequently argued that it should be allow to force Staley to take medication, in order to both ease his suffering from the effects of his paranoid schizophrenia and to enforce the judgement of death. Staley's defense argued that to medicate him under such circumstances would be to create an "artificial competence" that would not pass legal muster for execution, and that the law did not allow a judge to order such forced medication. The court disagreed and ordered Staley forcibly medicated with – a process that, at times, according to the ruling, saw Staley restrained in order to be injected with drugs. For six years the state medicated Staley with about a 60% success rate of forcible medication, according to the majority opinion.
After years of medication Staley was again found competent and set for execution in May 2012; again, his defense contested.
The Texas Tribune posts, "Court: Death Row Inmate Can't Be Forcibly Medicated," by Brandi Grissom.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a ruling Wednesday declaring that Steven Staley, a mentally ill death row inmate, cannot be forcibly medicated for the purpose of making him competent for execution; and without medication, the judges decided, he is not competent to be executed.
"We hold that the evidence conclusively shows that appellant's competency to be executed was achieved solely through the involuntary medication, which the trial court had no authority to order under the competency-to-be-executed statute," Judge Elsa Alcala wrote in the court's majority opinion.
The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association both consider it ethically unacceptable for doctors to provide treatments to patients when the purpose is for execution. And state supreme courts in Louisiana and South Carolina have ruled that forcibly medicating patients so they can be executed violates those states' constitutions.
The court stayed Staley's execution in May 2012 to give the arguments in the case more consideration. In Wednesday’s ruling, the court did not answer the constitutional questions about medicating Staley so that he could be competent for execution. Instead, the judges ruled that Salvant did not have authority to order Staley to medicated. And, without that medication, they ruled, he was not competent for execution.
"Texas court rules death row inmate can't be forcibly medicated to prepare him for execution," is AP coverage, via the Republic.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that a convicted killer with a history of mental illness cannot be forcibly medicated for the purpose of making him competent for execution.
The court ruled Wednesday in favor of 51-year-old death row inmate Steven Staley, who was convicted for the 1989 shooting death of a Fort Worth restaurant manager during a botched robbery.
The same court in May 2012 granted a reprieve for Staley two days before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.
Ealier coverage of Steven Staley's case and long history of severe mental illness begins at the link.