Archive | severe mental illness

25 November 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Denies Stay of Execution to Scott Panetti

Breaking: Today, a 5-4 splintered Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) denied, on jurisdictional grounds, a stay of execution and appointment of counsel and mental health experts for Scott Panetti, a schizophrenic man scheduled for execution on December 3, 2014. Attorneys for Mr. Panetti had appealed a denial from the trial court last week where they sought a stay of execution and appointment of counsel and mental health experts in order to allow for a meaningful opportunity to assess Mr. Panetti’s competency for execution.

In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Elsa Alcala, joined by three other CCA judges, wrote:

“…by declining to construe [Mr. Panetti’s] motion as a pleading to determine his competency under Article 46.05, this Court, at best, deprives appellant of a fair opportunity to litigate his claims, thereby violating the constitutionality required procedural protections recognized in Ford. At worst, this Court’s decision will result in the irreversible and constitutionally impermissible execution of a mentally incompetent person.”

Opinion from the Court of Criminal Appeals: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQb1NUYXpkeGFGbVZrcDYxR3RpZnh2WWpod3ow/view?usp=sharing

Dissent by Judge Alcala: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQLW1Wc3VqOTZfYVJ2c01nYXM3SUR0YnlwamVZ/view?usp=sharing

The following is a statement from Kathryn Kase, co-counsel for Mr. Panetti:

“As Judge Alcala rightly noted, today’s ruling ‘elevates form over substance’ by concluding it lacks jurisdiction in this case. Scott Panetti has suffered from schizophrenia and delusions for three decades. By all accounts, Mr. Panetti’s condition has deteriorated. He is hearing voices, believes that a listening device has been implanted in his tooth and that the State wants him to ‘shut up’ about corruption on death row and stop him from preaching the Gospel.  He has not had a competency hearing in seven years. Despite these facts, Texas continues to pursue the execution of a man with an incurable, devastating mental illness that profoundly affected the crime, his trial and his death sentence. Mr. Panetti’s serious mental illness has infected every stage of his case. He is not the worst of the worst for whom the death penalty is intended, and we will challenge today’s ruling which denies him the basic right to contest his competency for execution.”

-Kathryn Kase, attorney for Scott Panetti and Executive Director of Texas Defender Service

-November 25, 2014

The appeal, denied today and filed by Mr. Panetti’s attorneys on November 20, 2014, argues that based on incomplete records recently obtained by Mr. Panetti’s counsel and a recent visit by counsel with Mr. Panetti, Mr. Panetti’s condition has deteriorated. Mr. Panetti is hearing voices, believes that a listening device has been implanted in his tooth and that TDCJ wants him to ‘shut up’ about corruption on death row and to stop him from preaching the Gospel.

Mr. Panetti’s attorneys say that this new information provides sufficient evidence that Mr. Panetti can make a showing that he is not competent for execution and that he is therefore entitled to appointed counsel, funding for a mental health expert and investigator, and a stay of execution so that he can prepare an adequate motion under Art. 46.05 raising his competency for execution claim.

Opening CCA Appeal Brief filed on November 20, 2014: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQYk5pYU5yek1wejdqaUQtLWJsOFpVY1RZVFpN/view?usp=sharing

CCA Motion for Stay of Execution filed on November 20, 2014:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQUGRobFU0UDEtOWRlREk0ekNyblpIdjBDSlBF/view?usp=sharing

The appeal states:

“In denying Scott Panetti’s request for a stay of execution, assistance of counsel, and funding for a mental health expert and investigator, the trial court made precisely the same mistake that Judge Stephen B. Ables made in this case over a decade ago – a mistake that, the United States Supreme Court held, violated bedrock principles of due process. In Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007), the Supreme Court reached two conclusions that squarely address the issue this Court now faces. First, the Supreme Court found that the preliminary showing of incompetency dictated by Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986), is neither onerous nor requires an inmate to present evidence that answers the Ford inquiries. Instead, the inmate need only make a sufficient showing of possible merit to warrant a more thorough exploration by the court. Second, the Supreme Court confirmed that, once an inmate has made this preliminary showing, the Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment require the court to give the inmate the tools needed to meaningful develop and present evidence of incompetency. Panetti, 551 U.S. at 952.”

“It is a bitter twist that the trial court is again depriving Mr. Panetti of the due process rights the Supreme Court announced in this very case seven years ago.”

“Mr. Panetti made the preliminary showing that triggers the due process protections of Ford and Panetti. Without first being afforded that rudimentary due process, Mr. Panetti cannot make the requisite Article 46.05 showing. Accordingly, this Court should conclude that Mr. Panetti is constitutionally entitled to a stay of execution, the appointment of counsel, and funding to retain a mental health expert and an investigator to assist him in preparing his Article 46.05 motion.” (pp. 36-38)

CASE BACKGROUND:

Three-Decade History of Severe Psychosis and Delusions

Mr. Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for over 30 years. He was hospitalized a dozen times for psychosis and delusions in the six years leading up to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before the crime. During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and proscribed antipsychotic medication.

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

Two years before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death, Mr. Panetti was involuntarily committed for homicidal behavior and was found to be suffering from delusions and psychotic religiosity.

The crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death also had the hallmarks of a severely disturbed mind. While off his antipsychotic medication, Mr. Panetti shaved his head and dressed in camouflage fatigues before going to his in-laws’ home and committing the offense for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s medical history can be found in this mental illness timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits:https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7c3kzWW5nRFBib1U/view?usp=sharing

Mr. Panetti’s Trial: ‘A Miserable Spectacle’

Despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, Mr. Panetti represented himself at his capital murder trial in 1995. Wearing a cowboy costume with a purple bandana and attempting to call over 200 people to the witness stand, including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and his own alter ego, Mr. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Mr. Panetti’s statements in court, at both the guilt and sentencing phase, were bizarre and incomprehensible. He took the witnesses stand and testified about his own life in excessive and irrelevant detail.

Mr. Panetti announced that he would assume the personality of “Sarge” and recounted the gruesome details of the crime in the third person. He gestured as if pointing a rifle to the jury box (visibly upsetting the jurors) and matter- of-factly imitated the sound of shots being fired.

Fixed Delusion that Texas is Trying to Kill Him for Preaching the Gospel

In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit’s standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife’s parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served.

Emerging Consensus Against the Imposition of the Death Penalty Against the Severely Mentally Ill

On November 24, 2014, attorneys for Mr. Panetti filed a challenge to the use of the death penalty against persons with severe mental illness, including schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, both of which were diagnosed in Mr. Panetti decades ago.

The habeas petition, which was filed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQRWZpbWdQZkV3d0xRTFI2RWE3M21WZXcyYlQ0/view?usp=sharing

Mr. Panetti’s Subsequent Motion for a Stay of Execution can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQeVdkODE0VWpsN3RERW80LXUtVUFmTHhBakg4/view?usp=sharing

Citing new research from a forthcoming empirical study, today’s filing argues that actual sentencing practices reveal an emerging consensus against use of the death penalty in cases where the defendant has severe mental illness. The new research, which examines the capital sentencing practices of 7 states, finds that only “5 out of 68, or 7.35% of defendants found [guilty but mentally ill] have been sentenced to death.”  (p. 45)

Furthermore, “the most recent instance in which a defendant found [guilty but mentally ill] was sentenced to death took place at least 20 years ago,” and none of those defendants has been executed. (pp. 45-46)

The new research “provides a critical element that has been missing from previous arguments that people with severe mental illness deserve the same constitutional protection when facing the death penalty that Atkins provides to people with intellectual disability. No court previously presented with this argument has had before it any evidence of actual relevant sentencing practices.” (pp. 43)

“The infrequency with which the death penalty is imposed on the class of death-eligible mentally ill defendants…demonstrates that a consensus has emerged against the imposition of the death penalty on mentally ill defendants.” (p. 47)

Other objective factors that demonstrate the national consensus against the death penalty for people with severe mental illness include the opinion of mental health professionals, and “[n]early every major mental health association in the United States has published policy statements recommending an outright…ban on the death penalty for offenders with severe mental illness….” (pp. 48-49)

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), NAMI’s Texas affiliate, the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, Disability Rights Texas, dozens of other mental health experts and the American Bar Association, which in 2006 approved a resolution urging preclusion of the death penalty for those who were mentally ill at the time of their crimes, are actively urging officials in Texas to stop Mr. Panetti’s execution.

The filing notes that “the imposition of the death penalty on people with severe mental illness, like people with intellectual disability [who are protected from the death penalty], does not serve the goals of deterrence and retribution because of their reduced moral culpability.” (p. 62). Furthermore, “defendants with severe mental illness have less ability to meaningfully assist counsel, have demeanors which can alienate a jury, and can less effectively testify on their own behalf.” (p. 64)

This was certainly the case with Mr. Panetti who “displayed ‘bizarre, ‘trance-like’ and ‘scary’ behavior throughout his trial. He asked nonsensical questions about Native Americans…and flipped a coin to decide whether to strike a potential juror.” (pp. 64-65)

“During the punishment phase, Mr. Panetti called only one witness, his standby counsel, before delivering an unintelligible punishment phase closing argument:

You know, just to touch on the spat and wasn’t cuffed, but I was bronc and Sheriff Kaiser and I had a talk, well, of the fact that I’m no longer American citizen, and because of my buckaroo case.  I believe city people love horses, too, and I don’t consider myself anything above or below anyone, but I do consider myself me, and when I made my last confession at Veterans Hospital to Father De la Garza, I wasn’t Catholic. (p. 30) 

Widespread Support for Clemency

On November 12, 2014, Mr. Panetti’s attorneys filed a clemency petition with Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles along with letters supporting clemency from the leading Texas and national mental health organizations and professionals such as the American Psychiatric AssociationMental Health America and Disability Rights Texas; criminal justice and legal professionals including former Texas Governor Mark Whitestate Attorneys General and former judges and prosecutors55 Evangelical leaders from Texas and nationally and 7 retired and active Bishops from the United Methodist Church and other faith leaders; Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and the American Bar Association, among others.

On November 18, 2014, worldwide support for Scott Panetti reached a groundswell with new calls for clemency from prominent individuals and organizations from across Texas and the world, including the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy organization on mental illness, National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); NAMI’s Texas affiliate; ten legislators from Texas; former U.S. Representative Ron Paul; several more Evangelical Christians; and the European Union, which represents twenty-eight nations.

The clemency petition can be accessed through Texas Defender Service’s web page on the case: http://texasdefender.org/scott-panetti/

To access the letters supporting clemency, additional legal documents and other case resources, including a video, please go to: texasdefender.org/scott-panetti.

Additionally, a petition started by Mr. Panetti’s sister, Vicki Panetti, has been signed by over 88,000 concerned individuals. https://www.change.org/p/gov-rick-perry-spare-my-brother-s-life-a-severely-mentally-ill-man-on-death-row

To speak with Mr. Panetti’s attorneys, Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service and Greg Wiercioch of Texas Defender Service and University of Wisconsin Law School, or if you would like to speak with mental health and other experts, please contact Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c).

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24 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

New filing in Panetti case: Emerging consensus against death penalty for people with severe mental illness

For Immediate Release: November 24, 2014
Contact:
 Laura Burstein, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c)
Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com
For More Information: www.texasdefender.org/scott-panetti

New Filing: National Consensus has Emerged against Imposition of the
Death Penalty for People with Severe Mental Illness

Attorneys for Scott Panetti, a Schizophrenic Man Scheduled for Execution on December 3rd, File Eighth Amendment Challenge in Texas’ Highest Court

(Austin, Texas, November 24, 2014) Today, attorneys for Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia for over thirty years, filed a challenge to the use of the death penalty against persons with severe mental illness, including schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, both of which were diagnosed in Mr. Panetti decades ago.

The habeas petition, which was filed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQRWZpbWdQZkV3d0xRTFI2RWE3M21WZXcyYlQ0/view?usp=sharing

Mr. Panetti’s Subsequent Motion for a Stay of Execution can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQeVdkODE0VWpsN3RERW80LXUtVUFmTHhBakg4/view?usp=sharing

Despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, Mr. Panetti represented himself at his capital murder trial in 1995. Wearing a cowboy costume with a purple bandana and attempting to call over 200 people to the witness stand, including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and his own alter ego, “Sarge,” Mr. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Citing new research from a forthcoming empirical study, today’s filing argues that actual sentencing practices reveal an emerging consensus against use of the death penalty in cases where the defendant has severe mental illness. The new research, which examines the capital sentencing practices of 7 states, finds that only “5 out of 68, or 7.35% of defendants found [guilty but mentally ill] have been sentenced to death.”  (p. 45)

Furthermore, “the most recent instance in which a defendant found [guilty but mentally ill] was sentenced to death took place at least 20 years ago,” and none of those defendants has been executed. (pp. 45-46)

The new research “provides a critical element that has been missing from previous arguments that people with severe mental illness deserve the same constitutional protection when facing the death penalty that Atkins provides to people with intellectual disability. No court previously presented with this argument has had before it any evidence of actual relevant sentencing practices.” (pp. 43)

“The infrequency with which the death penalty is imposed on the class of death-eligible mentally ill defendants…demonstrates that a consensus has emerged against the imposition of the death penalty on mentally ill defendants.” (p. 47)

Other objective factors that demonstrate the national consensus against the death penalty for people with severe mental illness include the opinion of mental health professionals, and “[n]early every major mental health association in the United States has published policy statements recommending an outright…ban on the death penalty for offenders with severe mental illness….” (pp. 48-49)

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), NAMI’s Texas affiliate, the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, Disability Rights Texas, dozens of other mental health experts and the American Bar Association, which in 2006 approved a resolution urging preclusion of the death penalty for those who were mentally ill at the time of their crimes, are actively urging officials in Texas to stop Mr. Panetti’s execution.

Today’s filing notes that “the imposition of the death penalty on people with severe mental illness, like people with intellectual disability [who are protected from the death penalty], does not serve the goals of deterrence and retribution because of their reduced moral culpability.” (p. 62). Furthermore, “defendants with severe mental illness have less ability to meaningfully assist counsel, have demeanors which can alienate a jury, and can less effectively testify on their own behalf.” (p. 64)

This was certainly the case with Mr. Panetti who “displayed ‘bizarre, ‘trance-like’ and ‘scary’ behavior throughout his trial. He asked nonsensical questions about Native Americans…and flipped a coin to decide whether to strike a potential juror.” (pp. 64-65)

“During the punishment phase, Mr. Panetti called only one witness, his standby counsel, before delivering an unintelligible punishment phase closing argument:

You know, just to touch on the spat and wasn’t cuffed, but I was bronc and Sheriff Kaiser and I had a talk, well, of the fact that I’m no longer American citizen, and because of my buckaroo case.  I believe city people love horses, too, and I don’t consider myself anything above or below anyone, but I do consider myself me, and when I made my last confession at Veterans Hospital to Father De la Garza, I wasn’t Catholic. (p. 30) 

Mr. Panetti announced that he would assume the personality of “Sarge” and recounted the gruesome details of the crime in the third person. He gestured as if pointing a rifle to the jury box and imitated the sound of shots being fired. As the filing explains, an attorney present at the trial recounts, “[One juror] told me that the goofy things that Scott said and did scared the jury.” (pp. 31-32)

In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit’s standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before he shaved his head and killed his in-laws, Amanda and Joseph Alvarado.  During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit supporting Mr. Panetti’s involuntarily commitment, his first wife described how he  was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

Mr. Panetti has a fixed delusion 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. He has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s history of severe mental illness can be found in timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits: http://texasdefender.org/wp-content/uploads/Panetti-Mental-Illness-Timeline.htm

In addition to the leading mental health organizations, Mr. Panetti has received worldwide support for clemency, including from over 55 prominent Evangelical Christians and 7 retired and active Bishops from the United Methodist Church and other faith leaders; former U.S. Representative Ron Paul; former Texas Governor Mark White, 10 Texas state legislators; nearly 30 former prosecutors and U.S. Attorneys General;  Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, the American Bar Association, and the European Union, which represents twenty-eight nations.

Additionally, a petition started by Mr. Panetti’s sister, Vicki Panetti, has been signed by over 80,000 concerned individuals. https://www.change.org/p/gov-rick-perry-spare-my-brother-s-life-a-severely-mentally-ill-man-on-death-row

If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife’s parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served.

To access legal filings, the clemency petition, the letters supporting clemency, additional documents and case resources, including a video, please go to: http://texasdefender.org/scott-panetti.

To speak with Mr. Panetti’s attorneys, Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service and Gregory Wiercioch of Texas Defender Service and the University of Wisconsin Law School, or if you would like to speak with mental health experts or signatories to the clemency letters, please contact Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c).

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20 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Scott Panetti appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Just In: Following a denial in district court, attorneys for Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia for over thirty years, asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) to stay his imminent execution to allow for a meaningful opportunity to assess his competency for execution. Mr. Panetti is scheduled for execution on December 3rdbut he has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years.

Today’s appeal argues that based on incomplete records recently obtained by Mr. Panetti’s counsel and a recent visit by counsel with Mr. Panetti, Mr. Panetti’s condition has deteriorated. Mr. Panetti is hearing voices, believes that a listening device has been implanted in his tooth and that TDCJ wants him to ‘shut up’ about corruption on death row and to stop him from preaching the Gospel.

Mr. Panetti’s attorneys say that this new information provides sufficient evidence that Mr. Panetti can make a showing that he is not competent for execution and that he is therefore entitled to appointed counsel, funding for a mental health expert and investigator, and a stay of execution so that he can prepare an adequate motion under Art. 46.05 raising his competency for execution claim.

Today’s Opening CCA Appeal Brief: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQYk5pYU5yek1wejdqaUQtLWJsOFpVY1RZVFpN/view?usp=sharing

Today’s CCA Motion for Stay of Execution:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQUGRobFU0UDEtOWRlREk0ekNyblpIdjBDSlBF/view?usp=sharing

The brief states:

“In denying Scott Panetti’s request for a stay of execution, assistance of counsel, and funding for a mental health expert and investigator, the trial court made precisely the same mistake that Judge Stephen B. Ables made in this case over a decade ago – a mistake that, the United States Supreme Court held, violated bedrock principles

of due process. In Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007), the Supreme Court reached two conclusions that squarely address the issue this Court now faces. First, the Supreme Court found that the preliminary showing of incompetency dictated by Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986), is neither onerous nor requires an inmate to

present evidence that answers the Ford inquiries. Instead, the inmate need only make a sufficient showing of possible merit to warrant a more thorough exploration by the court. Second, the Supreme Court confirmed that, once an inmate has made this preliminary showing, the Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment require the court to give the inmate the tools needed to meaningful develop and present evidence of incompetency. Panetti, 551 U.S. at 952.”

“It is a bitter twist that the trial court is again depriving Mr. Panetti of the due process rights the Supreme Court announced in this very case seven years ago.”

“Mr. Panetti made the preliminary showing that triggers the due process protections of Ford and Panetti. Without first being afforded that rudimentary due process, Mr. Panetti cannot make the requisite Article 46.05 showing. Accordingly, this Court should conclude that Mr. Panetti is constitutionally entitled to a stay of execution, the appointment of counsel, and funding to retain a mental health expert and an investigator to assist him in preparing his Article 46.05 motion.” (pp. 36-38)

Below is a statement from Kathryn Kase, attorney for Mr. Panetti, in response to yesterday’s denial followed by background about the case.

Statement from Kathryn Kase, Attorney For Scott Panetti, In Response to Wednesday’s Denial of Stay of Execution 

“Mr. Panetti, who has been a paranoid schizophrenic for over thirty years, has deteriorated in the last several years. If there is to be any legitimacy to the capital punishment process in this troubling case, it is essential to conduct a hearing on whether or not Mr. Panetti is competent to be executed prior to carrying out his execution. As an obviously severely mentally ill man with schizophrenia, Mr. Panetti should never have been allowed to represent himself in his death penalty case. Mr. Panetti should not have been allowed to reject a plea deal that would have saved his life. Now, Mr. Panetti must not be executed without a competency hearing. This is the last chance to prevent an injustice from turning into an immoral tragedy.”

Kathryn Kase, attorney for Scott Panetti and Executive Director of Texas Defender Service

November 19, 2014

Judge Williams’ Order can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZ1lablY2LW5YM1U5NDVTeWdJMExNQ0lUdGFB/view?usp=sharing

CASE BACKGROUND

Three-Decade History of Severe Psychosis and Delusions

Mr. Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for over 30 years. He was hospitalized a dozen times for psychosis and delusions in the six years leading up to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before the crime. During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and proscribed antipsychotic medication.

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

Two years before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death, Mr. Panetti was involuntarily committed for homicidal behavior and was found to be suffering from delusions and psychotic religiosity.

The crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death also had the hallmarks of a severely disturbed mind. While off his antipsychotic medication, Mr. Panetti shaved his head and dressed in camouflage fatigues before going to his in-laws’ home and committing the offense for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s medical history can be found in this mental illness timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits:https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7c3kzWW5nRFBib1U/view?usp=sharing

Mr. Panetti’s Trial: ‘A Miserable Spectacle’

Despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, Mr. Panetti represented himself at his capital murder trial in 1995. Wearing a cowboy costume with a purple bandana and attempting to call over 200 people to the witness stand, including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and his own alter ego, Mr. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Mr. Panetti’s statements in court, at both the guilt and sentencing phase, were bizarre and incomprehensible. He took the witnesses stand and testified about his own life in excessive and irrelevant detail.

Mr. Panetti announced that he would assume the personality of “Sarge” and recounted the gruesome details of the crime in the third person. He gestured as if pointing a rifle to the jury box (visibly upsetting the jurors) and matter- of-factly imitated the sound of shots being fired.

Fixed Delusion that Texas is Trying to Kill Him for Preaching the Gospel

In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit’s standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife’s parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served.

Widespread Support for Clemency

On November 12, 2014, Mr. Panetti’s attorneys filed a clemency petition with Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles along with letters supporting clemency from the leading Texas and national mental health organizations and professionals such as the American Psychiatric AssociationMental Health America and Disability Rights Texas; criminal justice and legal professionals including former Texas Governor Mark Whitestate Attorneys General and former judges and prosecutors55 Evangelical leaders from Texas and nationally and 7 retired and active Bishops from the United Methodist Church and other faith leaders; Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and the American Bar Association, among others.

On November 18, 2014, worldwide support for Scott Panetti reached a groundswell with new calls for clemency from prominent individuals and organizations from across Texas and the world, including the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy organization on mental illness, National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); NAMI’s Texasaffiliate; ten legislators from Texas; former U.S. Representative Ron Paul; several more Evangelical Christians; and the European Union, which represents twenty-eight nations.

The clemency petition can be accessed through Texas Defender Service’s web page on the case: http://texasdefender.org/scott-panetti/

To access the letters supporting clemency, additional legal documents and other case resources, including a video, please go to: texasdefender.org/scott-panetti.

To speak with Mr. Panetti’s attorneys, Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service and Greg Wiercioch of Texas Defender Service and University of Wisconsin Law School, or if you would like to speak with mental health and other experts, please contact Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411(c).

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19 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Worldwide Calls for Clemency for Scott Panetti

For Immediate Release: November 18, 2014
Contact: Laura Burstein, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c)
Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com
For More Information: www.texasdefender.org/scott-panetti

Worldwide Support Grows for Clemency for Scott Panetti, A Paranoid Schizophrenic Scheduled for Execution on December 3rd

Execution That Would “Cross a Moral Line” Opposed by Mental Health Organizations, Texas and National Legislators, Evangelical Christians, the European Union and Thousands More in Supplement to Clemency Petition Filed Today

(Austin, Texas, November 18, 2014) Worldwide support for Scott Panetti reached a groundswell today with new calls for clemency from prominent individuals and organizations from across Texas and the world, including the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy organization on mental illness, National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); NAMI’s Texas affiliate; ten legislators from Texas; former U.S. Representative Ron Paul; several more Evangelical Christians; and the European Union, which represents twenty-eight nations.

Mr. Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia for over thirty years, is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on December 3, 2014, unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends commutation to life in prison and Governor Rick Perry grants it, or a court stays the execution that attorneys and supporters have said would “cross a moral line.”

“We believe that executing a person as severely and persistently ill as Scott Panetti would only compound the original tragedy, represent a profound injustice, and serve no useful retributive or preventive purpose,” states the letter from NAMI and NAMI Texas. “After many years of review and debate about this case, we urge you exercise your authority to commute the death penalty to life in prison in this highly tragic case.”

The letter from NAMI and NAMI Texas can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQOHE1YXNIWE1kbHd3ZTZzdjZTZTRiNWFCd1U0/view?usp=sharing

Letters from the diverse and unlikely array of supporters were submitted as part of a supplement to the clemency petition filed today with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry. The amended petition builds on the already widespread and extensive support for clemency for Mr. Panetti  by the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America and Disability Rights Texas and 24 other mental health experts; 33 former prosecutors and U.S. Attorneys General, 55 Evangelical leaders from Texas and nationally and 7 retired and active Bishops from the United Methodist Church and other faith leaders; Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and the American Bar Association, among others, who had submitted their letters as part of the initial clemency petition filed on November 12, 2014.

The supplement to the clemency petition can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQbjZHWkh5dHp1MVE/view?usp=sharing

Texas legislators are particularly concerned about the fact that Mr. Panetti has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years. He has a fixed delusion 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.

“As members of the Texas Legislature, we are writing to express our grave concern that Scott Panetti is scheduled for execution on December 3, 2014, without any meaningful evaluation of his current mental condition,” the letter signed by eight Texas legislators reads. “Texas has a strong interest in a fair and accurate criminal justice system, and its administration of capital punishment must comport with due process of law.”

The letter from Texas legislators can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQcmNuR3MtMkh0THlVZEc3UnhhbzJoOXpIVEZv/view?usp=sharing

On November 14, 2014, Mr. Panetti’s attorneys filed a new Motion in the 216th District Court in Kerrville, Texas, which seeks to stay or modify Mr. Panetti’s scheduled execution date in order to assess Mr. Panetti’s competency to be executed.

The Motion provides details on how Mr. Panetti believes he is “hearing voices” and has a “listening device implanted in his tooth.” He said he was being executed “because TDCJ wants him to ‘shut up’ about the corruption and to stop him from preaching the Gospel.”

Link to Motion here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7NTFwUWJSYXNablZDcnBvdzFTQUhGTWxfczJR/view?usp=sharing

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before he shaved his head and killed his in-laws, Amanda and Joseph Alvarado.  During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s history of severe mental illness can be found in timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits: http://texasdefender.org/wp-content/uploads/Panetti-Mental-Illness-Timeline.htm

As the letter from the EU notes, “The European Union strongly believes that the execution of persons suffering from a mental disorder is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and is in contradiction to the minimum standards of human rights set forth in several international human rights instruments, as well as being prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.”

The letter from the European Union can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQMTJ6NTRsMExTS1FieUtnSXFvZ0g0VkhJdXVB/view?usp=sharing

As former Texas Governor Mark White said in his new statement, “I know very well that in so many instances, there are incredibly close and difficult calls hat have to be made to either allow or prohibit the death penalty from being carried out. But Scott Panetti’s plea for clemency is no such case. He is a severely mentally ill man. His trial was a sham. And executing Panetti would say far more about us than it would about the man we are attempting to kill.”

Governor White’s letter can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQWlp5MDNEaktKM3E5SFhEWExvNTZNa3VwZXVR/view?usp=sharing

Former Congressman Ron Paul agrees: “The circumstances of this case present a situation where execution does not serve the state of Texas.”

Rep. Paul’s letter can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQRWtuVTBhRzdRQXhFVFA5d1Brc0xHak9lTUww/view?usp=sharing

A complete listing of the clemency letters and more information about Mr. Panetti’s case, including legal documents, video footage, and more, can be accessed here: www.texasdefender.org/scott-panetti

Additionally, an online petition has over 6,500 signatures in support of clemency from citizens of Texas, the U.S. and the world.

The Change.org petition can be accessed here: https://www.change.org/p/gov-rick-perry-spare-my-brother-s-life-a-severely-mentally-ill-man-on-death-row

To speak with attorneys for Mr. Panetti, Kathryn Kase of the Texas Defender Service and Greg Wiercioch of the Texas Defender Service and the University of Wisconsin Law School, or signatories to the letters supporting clemency, please contact: Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c).

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14 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys file new motion requesting stay of execution for Scott Panetti

For Immediate ReleaseNovember 14, 2014
Contact: Laura Burstein, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c)
Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com
For More Information: www.texasdefender.org/scott-panetti

Attorneys for Scott Panetti Ask Court to Stay Execution for First Competency Hearing in Nearly Seven Years

Widespread Opposition to Execution of Man with Schizophrenia who Believes Texas Wants to Execute Him for Preaching the Gospel

Today, attorneys for Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia for over thirty years, and whose case has elicited widespread support for a stay of execution, have filed a new Motion in the 216th District Court in Kerrville, Texas, which seeks to stay or modify Mr. Panetti’s scheduled December 3rd execution date in order to assess Mr. Panetti’s competency to be executed. Mr. Panetti has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years.

Today’s Motion includes new information from incomplete records received by Mr. Panetti’s counsel over the last week from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and a visit last week by counsel with Mr. Panetti.

The newly released TDCJ records reveal that “mental health treatment professionals and correctional officers have noted alarming and aberrational changes in Mr. Panetti’s behavior over the last two years.” (p. 4) The Motion provides details on how Mr. Panetti believes he is “hearing voices” and has a “listening device implanted in his tooth.” He said he was being executed “because TDCJ wants him to ‘shut up’ about the corruption and to stop him from preaching the Gospel.” (pp. 13-16)

Based on this new information, the Motion states “counsel can now make a colorable showing that Mr. Panetti is presently incompetent to be executed under Ford v. Wainwright (1986) and Panetti v. Quarterman (2007)…[that] warrant[s] a fuller exploration by the Court.” (p. 2)

The Motion can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7NTFwUWJSYXNablZDcnBvdzFTQUhGTWxfczJR/view?usp=sharing

On November 12, 2014, Mr. Panetti’s attorneys filed a clemency petition with Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles along with letters supporting clemency from the leading Texas and national mental health organizations and professionals such as the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America and Disability Rights Texas; criminal justice and legal professionals including former Texas Governor Mark White, state Attorneys General and former judges and prosecutors; over 50 Evangelical leaders from Texas and nationally and 6 retired and active Bishops from the United Methodist Church and other faith leaders; Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and the American Bar Association, among others.

The clemency petition can be accessed through Texas Defender Service’s web page on the case: http://texasdefender.org/scott-panetti/

Three-Decade History of Severe Psychosis and Delusions

Mr. Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for over 30 years. He was hospitalized a dozen times for psychosis and delusions in the six years leading up to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before the crime. During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and proscribed antipsychotic medication.

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

Two years before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death, Mr. Panetti was involuntarily committed for homicidal behavior and was found to be suffering from delusions and psychotic religiosity.

The crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death also had the hallmarks of a severely disturbed mind. While off his antipsychotic medication, Mr. Panetti shaved his head and dressed in camouflage fatigues before going to his in-laws’ home and committing the offense for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s medical history can be found in this mental illness timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits:https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7c3kzWW5nRFBib1U/view?usp=sharing

Mr. Panetti’s Trial: ‘A Miserable Spectacle’

Despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, Mr. Panetti represented himself at his capital murder trial in 1995. Wearing a cowboy costume with a purple bandana and attempting to call over 200 people to the witness stand, including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and his own alter ego, Mr. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Mr. Panetti’s statements in court, at both the guilt and sentencing phase, were bizarre and incomprehensible. He took the witnesses stand and testified about his own life in excessive and irrelevant detail.

Mr. Panetti announced that he would assume the personality of “Sarge” and recounted the gruesome details of the crime in the third person. He gestured as if pointing a rifle to the jury box (visibly upsetting the jurors) and matter- of-factly imitated the sound of shots being fired.

Fixed Delusion that Texas is Trying to Kill Him for Preaching the Gospel

In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit’s standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife’s parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served.

To access the letters supporting clemency, additional legal documents and other case resources, including a video, please go to: texasdefender.org/scott-panetti.

To speak with Mr. Panetti’s attorneys, Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service, 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).

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12 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Clemency Petition Filed Today: Execution of Scott Panetti Would “Cross a Moral Line”

For Immediate Release: November 12, 2014
Contact: Laura Burstein, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c)
Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com
For More Information: www.texasdefender.org/scott-panetti

Dozens of Mental Health Organizations and Experts, Former Prosecutors, Evangelicals and the American Bar Association Urge Texas Governor to Commute Death Sentence of Severely Mentally Ill Man Facing Imminent Execution

Clemency Petition Filed Today: Execution of Scott Panetti Would
“Cross a Moral Line”

(Austin, Texas, November 12, 2014) Today, dozens of prominent organizations and individuals from Texas and across the country called on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to stop the December 3rd scheduled execution of Scott Panetti, a severely mentally ill man who has suffered from schizophrenia for more than 30 years.

Mr. Panetti, who represented himself at his capital trial wearing a cowboy costume, will be executed unless a commutation is granted or a court intervenes.  Mr. Panetti has suffered from serious mental illness for over 30 years. He was hospitalized more than a dozen times for psychosis and delusions in the 14 years leading up to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death. At his 1995 trial he attempted to call over 200 witnesses, including John F. Kennedy, the Pope, and Jesus Christ.

The commutation requests were submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry as part of a clemency petition filed by Mr. Panetti’s attorneys this morning, which states: “The case of Scott Louis Panetti is a judicial disaster that has attracted national and international outrage – and for good reason.  Evidence of his incompetency runs like a fissure through every proceeding in his case – from arraignment to execution…The execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line.”

The clemency petition can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQZzdFTFJpdVZZRjNjN2NMOE0zTEhocE1Pb0Jr/view?usp=sharing

Letters urging clemency in Mr. Panetti’s case come from several of the nation’s and Texas’ leading mental health organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America and Disability Rights Texas; experts on mental health issues in the law; a former Texas Governor, state Attorneys General, U.S. Attorneys and others with experience in the criminal justice field; 50 Evangelical faith leaders, including Rev. Sam Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, Lynn Hybels of the nationally prominent Willow Creek Church, Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and other faith leaders; Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation; and the American Bar Association, among others.

“As law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, we are deeply troubled that a capital sentence was the result of a trial where a man with schizophrenia represented himself, dressed in a costume,” stated the letter signed by 30 prominent individuals, including former federal and state court judges and prosecutors, Department of Justice officials, parole board members, and other notable legal practitioners from Texas and across the country. “We come together from across the partisan and ideological divide and are united in our belief that, irrespective of whether we support or oppose the death penalty, this is not an appropriate case for execution.”

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before he shaved his head and killed his in-laws, Amanda and Joseph Alvarado.  During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s medical history can be found in a mental illness timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits: http://texasdefender.org/wp-content/uploads/Panetti-Mental-Illness-Timeline.htm

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

“In his state of severe mental illness, Mr. Panetti should never have been permitted to represent himself at his capital trial,” states the letter from leading national and Texas mental health organizations and experts. “…[T]he fact that he did not have counsel renders his conviction and sentencing even more problematic in light of the delusional nature of his illness.”

In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit’s standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

On November 6, 2014, the trial court in Kerrville, Texas refused a request by Mr. Panetti’s attorneys to withdraw or modify the execution date so that they would have a meaningful opportunity to contest his competency for execution.

Mr. Panetti has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years. He has a fixed delusion 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.

“The execution of Scott Panetti would be a cruel injustice that would serve no constructive purpose whatsoever,” states the letter signed by more than 50 notable Evangelical Christian faith leaders, including 20 from Texas. “When we inflict the harshest punishment on the severely mentally ill, whose culpability is greatly diminished by their debilitating conditions, we fail to respect their innate dignity as human beings.”

A complete listing of the clemency letters and more information about Mr. Panetti’s case, including legal documents, video footage, and more, can be accessed here: www.texasdefender.org/scott-panetti

To speak with attorneys for Mr. Panetti, Kathryn Kase of the Texas Defender Service and Greg Wiercioch of the Texas Defender Service and the University of Wisconsin at Madison Law School, or signatories to the letters supporting clemency, please contact: Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c).

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08 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas Court Refuses to Withdraw Execution Date for Scott Panetti

On Thursday, November 6, 2014, the trial court judge in Kerrville, Texas refused to withdraw or modify the December 3, 2014execution date for Scott Panetti. 

Below is a statement from Kathryn Kase, one of Mr. Panetti’s attorneys and Executive Director of Texas Defender Service.

Statement from Kathryn Kase, attorney for Scott Panetti

“Texas has conducted itself disgracefully in the case of Scott Panetti, who has had schizophrenia for over thirty years and suffers from a fixed delusion that Satan is trying to kill him through the state of Texas. Yesterday, a judge ruled that Texas will not slow its rush to execute to Mr. Panetti, despite the fact that he has not had a competency hearing in seven years.

“This shameful case has revealed the state’s disregard for the dignity of the mentally ill at every turn: from allowing Mr. Panetti to represent himself at his capital trial dressed in a cowboy costume despite his severe mental illness to more recently, when the state did not disclose to Mr. Panetti’s attorneys that his execution date had been set. It is extremely troubling that we only learned about the execution date from the media two weeks after the date had been scheduled.

“Mr. Panetti went to death row in 1995 a man who had already been hospitalized over a dozen times for the incurable and devastating illness of schizophrenia; he attempted to represent himself in court through the haze of his ongoing schizophrenia, and he remains a man with schizophrenia and a fixed delusion today. The prospect of his execution, particularly following such a profoundly compromised legal process, is morally reprehensible.”

-Kathryn Kase, attorney for Scott Panetti and Executive Director of Texas Defender Service

-November 7, 2014

Background on the case and a link to the Emergency Motion for Hearing are available here.

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03 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Scott Panetti file Emergency Motion in order to determine his competency to be executed

For immediate release: November 3, 2014
Contact Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com or 202-626-6868 (o) or 202-669-3411 (c).

The Execution of Severely Mentally Ill Scott Panetti Would Cross a Moral Line

Today, an Emergency Motion for Hearing was filed in state court by attorneys for Scott Panetti, a severely mentally ill man scheduled for execution in Texas on December 3, 2014, asking the State withdraw or modify the execution date so that Mr. Panetti is given a meaningful opportunity to contest his competency for execution. Mr. Panetti has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years.

Astonishingly, it is noted in the Motion that Mr. Panetti’s attorneys learned of the execution date from the newspaper on October 30th — two weeks after the date was set, apparently in secret, with no notice whatsoever to the lawyers who have represented Mr. Panetti for nearly a decade.

“The State has an unequivocal, constitutional duty in every case to pursue justice — not a conviction, not an execution, not a win at all costs.  By not informing attorneys that an execution date had been set, the State has fallen woefully short of that duty in Scott Panetti’s case,” said Greg Wiercioch, counsel of record for Mr. Panetti.  “The State’s conduct would be disturbing if this were a routine case.  But it is unconscionable in a death penalty case where the District Attorney himself did not believe Scott Panetti was competent to represent himself at trial,” said Mr. Wiercioch.

The Motion, filed in trial court in Kerrville, Texas, can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7QUtwdHRUSU5oeS01dngyR0FVclh0dW1YZEZj/view?usp=sharing

The Motion states, “[t]here can be no serious dispute that, because of Mr. Panetti’s long-standing and incurable psychotic disorder, he meets the threshold showing that entitles him to the appointment of two experts and an evidentiary hearing under Article 46.05 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,’ and that “[t]he U. S. Supreme Court held – in Mr. Panetti’s own case – that the procedure for determining a prisoner’s competency for execution must comport with due process under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.” (page 2)

“Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case. His execution now would cross a moral line and serve no penological purpose. It is reasonable and necessary for a competency hearing to take place before the State wrongly executes someone who is clearly incompetent for execution,” said Kathryn Kase, co-counsel for Mr. Panetti. 

Three-Decade History of Severe Psychosis and Delusions

Mr. Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for over 30 years. He was hospitalized a dozen times for psychosis and delusions in the six years leading up to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before the crime. During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and proscribed antipsychotic medication.

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

Two years before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death, Mr. Panetti was involuntarily committed for homicidal behavior and was found to be suffering from delusions and psychotic religiosity.

The crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death also had the hallmarks of a severely disturbed mind. While off his antipsychotic medication in 1992, Mr. Panetti shaved his head and dressed in camouflage fatigues before going to his in-laws’ home and committing the offense for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s medical history can be found in this mental illness timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7S3czWFJoWHctcW8/view?usp=sharing

Mr. Panetti’s Trial: ‘A Miserable Spectacle’

While representing himself at trial in 1995, Mr. Panetti sought over 200 subpoenas, including ones for John F. Kennedy, the Pope, and Jesus Christ. He wore a  TV-Western cowboy costume and a purple bandana. 

Mr. Panetti’s statements in court, at both the guilt and sentencing phase, were bizarre and incomprehensible. He took the witnesses stand and testified about his own life in excessive and irrelevant detail.

Mr. Panetti announced that he would assume the personality of “Sarge” and recounted the gruesome details of the crime in the third person. He gestured as if pointing a rifle to the jury box (visibly upsetting the jurors) and matter- of-factly imitated the sound of shots being fired.

Fixed Delusion that Texas is Trying to Kill Him for Preaching the Gospel

Mr. Panetti has a fixed delusion 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. 

If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife’s parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served.

Prominent mental health organizations and professionals have said Mr. Panetti’s execution would be “a miserable spectacle”: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7dFg0eEJyUHRrSUk/view?usp=sharing

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).

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