Archive | execution

30 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Texas Schedules Execution of Scott Panetti Despite Long History of Severe Mental Illness

Breaking: Today, a state district court announced that Texas has set a December 3, 2014 execution date for Scott Panetti, who has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the state, is trying to kill him for preaching the Gospel. Below is a statement from Mr. Panetti’s attorney followed by background about the case and a link to a video about Mr. Panetti’s three-decade long history of severe mental illness.

Statement of Greg Wiercioch, Attorney for Scott Panetti, a TX Death Row Prisoner with Severe Mental Illness, on the Setting of an Execution Date

“Scott Panetti is not competent for execution and therefore his execution would serve no retributive purpose.  It is unfortunate that an execution date has been set.

“For more than three decades, Mr. Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness. He was allowed to represent himself at his capital trial, wearing a make-believe cowboy outfit and attempting to subpoena Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy. He has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the State of Texas, is seeking to execute him for preaching the Gospel. His execution would be a miserable spectacle.”

– Greg Wiercioch, Attorney for Scott Panetti

– October 30, 2014

CASE BACKGROUND:

Scott Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness for over 30 years. It first manifested itself at least a decade before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in Texas. Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case.

This is the enduring image of Mr. Panetti’s case: a paranoid schizophrenic wearing a TV-Western cowboy costume; on trial for his life; insisting on defending himself without counsel; attempting to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ; and raising an insanity defense. Mr. Panetti’s pro se performance was an abomination and his trial was a mockery of the criminal justice system.

Six years after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Fifth Circuit’s unconstitutional standard for assessing competency for execution in Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), the Fifth Circuit once again held in 2013 that Mr. Panetti is competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

It is undisputed that Mr. Panetti suffers from severe mental illness that pre-dates the crime and it is uncontested that Mr. Panetti’s delusions center on his belief that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the State of Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the condemned.

The Fifth Circuit’s standard trivializes severe mental illness and deems delusions irrelevant by disregarding their iron-grip persistence. Mr. Panetti’s delusional belief system is like a warped lens that distorts everything that passes through it.

By treating delusional beliefs as irrelevant if a court can identify any part of a prisoner’s beliefs about his execution as “rational,” the Fifth Circuit’s standard ignores the diagnostic features and clinical realities of psychotic disorders and fails to protect the truly insane from execution.

The Fifth Circuit’s standard fails to identify the individuals whom the U.S. Supreme Court in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) and Panetti v. Quarterman (2007) intended to protect: prisoners who may possess some cognitive understanding of the reasons for their execution, but who also exhibit delusional thinking that irredeemably distorts the link between their wrongdoing and the punishment they are about to suffer.

Prominent mental health organizations and others have discussed how Mr. Panetti’s execution would be “a miserable spectacle” that would not satisfy the retributive goal of capital punishment.

For example, Ron Honberg, National Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), writes:

http://www.nationallawjournal.com/commentary/id=1202669974719/Opinion-High-Court-Must-Avoid-a-Miserable-Spectacle%3Fmcode=1202615496053&curindex=0

George Parnham, a prominent Houston attorney who has represented many defendants with severe mental illness, including Andrea Yates, writes:

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/opinion/parnham-scott-panetti-is-not-competent-for-executi/nhK58/?icid=statesman_internallink_mystatesmaninvitationbox_feb2014_99cdaypass_post-purchase#10b0b5f6.3797509.735487

Please find here the link to the video Executing the Insane: The Case of Scott Panetti:

http://vimeo.com/95295025

When a death row prisoner attributes his imminent execution to reasons that only someone suffering from a severe mental illness could espouse – such as Mr. Panetti’s delusion that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels of Jesus Christ – he cannot be said to have the capacity to accept responsibility for his crime.

###

For more information or to arrange an interview with Mr. Panetti’s attorneys, Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase, or if you would like to speak with mental health experts, please contact Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c).

Continue Reading

29 October 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Executes Miguel Paredes

Last night, the State of Texas carried out its final execution of 2014, putting Miguel Paredes to death for the murders of Adrian Torres, Nelly Bravo, and Shawn Michael Caine in San Antonio in 2000. Paredes was 18 years old when he and two accomplices shot the three victims, took their bodies to Frio County, and set them on fire. His two co-defendants are currently serving life sentences.

The 10 people put to death by lethal injection this year represents the fewest executions in Texas since 1996.  Several media outlets have noted the overall decline in use of the death penalty both in Texas and nationwide.  “In Texas, the Death Penalty is Slowly Dying Out” (The Atlantic, October 29, 2014), journalist Matt Ford observes that “Thirty people have been executed so far this year in the entire United States, whereas Texas alone executed 40 people at its peak in 2000.”

Death sentences have also declined significantly.  In 1999, prosecutor sought and juries imposed 48 new death sentences in Texas.  For the last five years, that number has been in the single digits.  As Tom Dart notes in his article about last night’s execution (“Miguel Paredes set to be 10th and last Texas prisoner executed in 2014,” The Guardian, October 28, 2014), geographic isolation and racial disparities persist in the imposition of new death sentences in Texas.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice already has scheduled nine executions in the first few months of 2015.

Continue Reading

27 October 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas scheduled to execute Miguel Paredes

On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Miguel Paredes for the murders of Adrian Torres, Nelly Bravo, and Shawn Michael Caine in San Antonio. Paredes was 18 years old in 2000, when he and two accomplices shot the three victims, took their bodies to Frio County, and set them on fire. The two co-defendants are currently serving life sentences.

Paredes, who was part of the violent Hermanos de Pistoleros gang, sees life differently now that he has become a Christian. He reportedly understands and accepts the consequences of his actions, but does not support the death penalty, telling the San Antonio Express-News, “Focus on the people that are really affected by this. This is not painless. It’s hurting the people that are law-abiding, that pay their taxes, that don’t hurt nobody. Their only crime is to love somebody.”  Paredes has a 16-year-old son and numerous siblings.

This is the last execution scheduled to occur in Texas in 2014.  This will be the fewest number of people executed here since 1996. To date, Texas has executed 517 inmates, more than any other state.

You can voice your opposition to this execution by attending a vigil in your area.

Continue Reading

17 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas Executes Lisa Coleman

The State of Texas executed Lisa Coleman this evening, September 17, 2014, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her request for a stay.  She was convicted a decade ago in Tarrant County in the starvation death of 9-year-old Davontae Williams. The boy’s mother, Marcella Williams, took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and is serving a life sentence.  She will be eligible for parole in 2044.

It was the ninth execution in Texas this year, out of 30 nationwide.  Coleman was the sixth woman put to death in Texas since 1982 and the second in 2014.  Read more from the Washington Post.

Continue Reading

16 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Federal court rejects appeal of Lisa Coleman

*Update as of 5:15 PM on September 17, 2014*  The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of Lisa Coleman, allowing her execution to proceed.  Read more from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/09/17/texas-prepares-for-a-rare-occurrence-an-execution-of-a-woman/.

The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Lisa Ann Coleman on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Coleman was convicted a decade ago in Tarrant County in the starvation death of 9-year-old Davontae Williams. The boy’s mother, Marcella Williams, took a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and is serving a life sentence.  She will be eligible for parole in 2044.

According to the Associated Press, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Coleman’s appeal earlier today.  The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also declined to commute her death sentence.  Attorneys contend that the kidnapping charge, which served as the aggravating factor that paved the way for prosecutors to charge Coleman with capital murder, should be reviewed by the courts.

If this execution proceeds, Coleman will be the sixth woman put to death in Texas since 1982.  It will be the ninth execution to date this year in the Lone Star State.

Read more about Coleman’s case, including interviews with her aunt and original defense attorney, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/09/15/6122414/arlington-womans-execution-set.html

and from NBC 5 Dallas- Fort Worth:http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Court-Declines-to-Stop-Womans-Execution-275313871.html

Continue Reading

10 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

State of Texas executes Willie Trottie

This evening, September 10th, the State of Texas executed Willie Trottie. A Harris County jury sentenced him to death for the 1993 murders of his former girlfriend Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus, at the Canada family home in Houston. Canada’s mother and sister also were wounded in the attack.

The execution took place under a shroud of secrecy, as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still refuses to disclose its source for compounded pentobarbital, the sole drug used in executions here.  According to the Associated Press, “attorneys for Trottie contended the dose of pentobarbital for his lethal injection was past its effectiveness date and could subject him to unconstitutional ‘tortuous’ pain.”  The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

It was the first execution in Texas in four months and the state’s first since the botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.  Earlier in the day, the State of Missouri also carried out an execution, putting Earl Ringo, Jr. to death.  Both Texas and Missouri have executed eight people to date in 2014.

Harris County now accounts for 122 executions since 1982, more than any state in the country besides Texas and twice as many as any other county.

Harris County prosecutors have sentenced 294 people to death since 1976; there are approximately 100 inmates still on death row who were convicted in Harris County … more than one-­third of the current death row population. 

Read more about the case of Willie Trottie from the Associated Press and the Guardian.

Continue Reading

09 September 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas to Resume Executions on Wednesday with Secret Drug Supply

The State of Texas is scheduled to resume executions this Wednesday, September 10th, after an unusual four-month hiatus.  It if proceeds, the execution of Willie Trottie will be the first execution in Texas since April and the first here since the botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.

This execution will take place under a shroud of secrecy, as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice still refuses to disclose its source for compounded pentobarbital, the sole drug used in executions here.  In an appeal filed today with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, attorneys for Trottie contend that the lethal injection drugs that will be used on him have expired.  Read more from the Texas Tribune.  Earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice do not have to disclose information about the pharmacy or pharmacist now supplying the lethal injection drugs used in executions.  Read more from the Guardian.

A Harris County jury sentenced Willie Trottie to death for the 1993 murders of his former girlfriend Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus, at the Canada family home in Houston. Canada’s mother and sister also were wounded in the attack.

The State of Missouri has also scheduled the execution of Earl Ringo for Wednesday.  Texas, Florida and Missouri  each have carried out seven executions to date this year.  Read more from the Associated Press.

We encourage all Texans to attend a vigil in your community.

Continue Reading

23 July 2014 ~ Comments Off

Another Botched Execution – This Time in Arizona

Today’s execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona took nearly two hours as he repeatedly gasped and snorted, according to witnesses.  Some reports say that Wood gasped more than 600 times during the process.  In coverage by CNNa media witness from KSAZ likened Wood’s breathing to a “fish gulping for air” and said it was difficult for everyone in the room to watch.

The events in Arizona come less than three months after the horribly botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, which reignited a national conversation about the secrecy now surrounding lethal injection protocols throughout the country.  Legal challenges in Wood’s case sought to force the state to disclose the source of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.  Unlike states like Texas that use a single dose of pentobarbital, Arizona now uses the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone.  This was the same combination of drugs used in a problematic execution in Ohio in January.

Statement from Attorney for Joseph Wood Re: Tonight’s Bungled Execution

The following is a statement from Dale Baich, one of Joseph Wood’s attorneys, regarding today’s execution:

“The experiment using midazolam combined with hydromorphone to carry out an execution failed today in Arizona. It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and forty minutes. We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today. Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution. The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

-Dale Baich

-July 23, 2014

Read coverage of today’s events and background on the case from the Associated Press and the Arizona Republic.

Continue Reading