"Scott Panetti is not competent for execution," is the title of an OpEd written by Houston attorney George Parnham in today's Austin American-Statesman. Here's the beginning of this must-read:
Do you remember Scott Panetti? He is pretty unforgettable. Panetti is the man with paranoid schizophrenia who was allowed to represent himself, while on trial for his life, wearing a make-believe Western cowboy outfit. He insisted on defending himself and attempted to summon dozens of witnesses, including John F. Kennedy, the pope and even Jesus Christ.
Panetti’s delusional courtroom performance was not simply painful to watch. It was a mockery of civilized society.
If Texas executes Panetti, it would be another travesty. He would go to his death convinced that he is being executed for preaching the gospel, not for the 1992 murder of his in-laws in Kerr County. The U.S. Supreme Court should intervene and prevent this gross injustice. The court needs to announce a clear standard for determining competency for execution that will provide guidance for the lower courts.
For more than 30 years, Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness. In the decade leading up to the crime, he was hospitalized 14 times for schizophrenia, manic depression (bipolar disorder), auditory hallucinations and delusions of persecution and grandiosity. At one point, he buried his furniture in his backyard because he believed the devil was in his furniture. By all accounts, his mental condition has gotten worse in prison.
Earlier coverage begins at the link. Related coverage is in the Scott Panetti category 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. The Court revisited the ruling in 2007 in Panetti v. Quarterman is via Oyez.