That's the title of an editorial in today's Houston Chronicle on the Marcus Druery case. Here's the beginning:
Last Friday, capping a flurry of activity, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution to convicted murderer Marcus Druery, who had been scheduled to be put to death tomorrow for a Brazos County murder and robbery in 2002.
At issue was Druery's mental competency to understand the reason for his execution. Both state and private mental health professionals had diagnosed Druery as severely psychotic and therefore incompetent to be executed. But last Tuesday, Brazos County District Judge J. D. Langley denied a motion to hold a full hearing on Druery's competency.
On Wednesday, Kate Black, Druery's attorney, stating that her client's execution "would violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel or unusual punishment," appealed that denial to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that her client "suffers from a psychotic disorder that renders him incompetent to be executed." Two days later, the court stayed the execution, writing that it had "determined that further review is necessary."
We applaud the court's decision, as far as it goes. We fervently hope that their review will persuade the justices to remand the case back to the Brazos County court for a competency hearing. Execution is irrevocable, and should never be invoked as long as a shred of doubt exists as to its constitutionality in any given case.
Prosecutors are not contesting the diagnosis of schizophrenia, nor claiming that Druery is malingering. They argue that despite his mental illness, he is competent for execution. But no court has ever ruled on Druery's competency. His attorneys are simply asking that their client not be put to death until they have had a chance to demonstrate, in a full and fair hearing, that he is not competent to be executed.
Salon posts, "Marcus Druery: Another questionable Texas execution." It's by Rania Khalek.
Black says Druery’s awareness of his upcoming death sentence is not the same as having a “rational understanding” of why the state wants to execute him. As evidence, she points to the Supreme Court decision in Panetti v. Quarterman, a case brought forward by another psychotic inmate who was nearly executed by the state of Texas.
Panetti had schizoaffective disorder, causing delusions that led him to believe the state wanted to kill him to stop him from preaching. Though Panetti recognized the factual rationale behind his death sentence — that he was found guilty of murdering his ex-wife’s parents — the Supreme Court held that “[a] prisoner’s awareness of the State’s rationale for an execution is not the same as a rational understanding of it.”
The court reasoned that executing a prisoner who “has no comprehension of why he has been singled out and stripped of his fundamental right to life” undermines the concept of retributive justice. “There’s no retribution for someone being executed when they think it’s for something that has nothing to do with the actual crime,” explained Black.
Druery’s failure to understand his legal circumstances was verified by Diane Mosnik, a neuropsychologist specializing in schizophrenia who was hired by the defense with court funding to conduct a comprehensive psychological assessment of Druery in May. “Because of his inflexible, psychotic and delusional interpretation of his circumstances, Mr. Druery does not have the capacity to rationally understand the connection between his crime and his punishment,” concluded Mosnik. “Although [Mr. Druery] has a factual awareness that an execution date has been scheduled for the crime for which he was tried, he does not believe that he will be executed because of his illogical, fixed, and firmly held delusional belief system.”
Black and her co-counsel, Gregory W. Wiercioch, one of the lawyers who argued the Panetti case to the Supreme Court, immediately appealed Langley’s ruling to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, requesting that it be overturned and Judge Langley be required to hold a competency hearing. Late Friday, the CCA granted a temporary stay pending further review of the evidence.
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.