Archive | severe mental illness

03 December 2014 ~ Comments Off

5th Circuit Court of Appeals Stays the Execution of Scott Panetti

BREAKING: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution of Scott Panetti, who had been scheduled for execution in Texas tonight at 6 p.m. CT.

Below is a statement from Mr. Panetti’s legal team, Greg Wiercioch of University of Wisconsin Law School and Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service, followed by background about the case.

“We are grateful that the court stayed tonight’s scheduled execution of Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia for three decades, for a careful review of the issues surrounding his competency. Mr. Panetti’s illness, schizophrenia, was present for years prior to the crime, profoundly affected his trial, and appears to have worsened in recent years. Mr. Panetti has not had a competency evaluation in seven years, and we believe that today’s ruling is the first step in a process which will clearly demonstrate that Mr. Panetti is too severely mentally ill to be executed.

“We would like to remember the Alvarado family today and express our deepest sympathies for the loss of Amanda and Joe Alvarado.

“We believe that people who live with severe mental illness should have treatment options to keep themselves and others safe. When people who have severe mental illness enter our criminal justice system, the system has a moral obligation to respond appropriately to the limitations and deficits presented by mental illness.”

-Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase, attorneys for Scott Panetti

-December 3, 2014

The Fifth Circuit Stay Order can be accessed here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQU204b1NjVldOc1NJYzBkRkdrUlhKZzBIeWZ3/view?usp=sharing

Mr. Panetti’s Opening Brief at the Fifth Circuit and Request for a Stay of Execution can be accessed here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQNl9DcjR1UDJTLUV0bTg4UmFObl9IaXZfeUxj/view

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQMWVlLUROakRiUkxRRVZDaXNKMzBwazZXUmFJ/view

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 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; 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.

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: http://texasdefender.org/scott-panetti.

Additionally, a petition started by Mr. Panetti’s sister, Vicki Panetti, has been signed by over 95,000 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, Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c).

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01 December 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejects clemency for Scott Panetti

Breaking: This afternoon, despite widespread support from the country’s and Texas’ leading mental health organizations, dozens of conservative and Evangelical leaders, the American Bar Association and hundreds of other prominent individuals and organizations, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted, 7-0, to deny a commutation recommendation for Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia for over thirty years.

Mr. Panetti is scheduled for execution on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Central time. He has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years. Mr. Panetti’s attorneys have petitions pending at the Fifth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court.

This afternoon, Mr. Panetti’s attorneys filed a Reprieve letter with Governor Rick Perry asking that he use his executive authority to issue a 30-day stay of execution in order for Mr. Panetti to have a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that he is not competent for execution.

The letter to Gov. Perry can be accessed here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQTUY2ZmdJdk1sckcwVUczRTFqVU14LWplc2FJ/view?usp=sharing

Below is a statement from Kathryn Kase, Mr. Panetti’s co-counsel, followed by background about the case.

Statement from Kathryn Kase, Attorney For Scott Panetti, In Response to Denial by Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

“Mr. Panetti is a sick man who has suffered from schizophrenia, an incurable mental illness, for over thirty years, including prior to and during the crime, and during his trial at which he represented himself in a floridly psychotic state. Widespread and diverse voices agree that Mr. Panetti’s execution would cross a moral line and serve no retributive or deterrent value, including national and Texas leaders in mental health, leading conservative, libertarian and evangelical Christian voices, former judges and prosecutors, legislators, Governors and attorneys general and many more. Despite the Board’s short-sighted recommendation today, there is still time for Governor Perry to issue a 30-day reprieve in order to evaluate Mr. Panetti’s competency to be executed, which has not been assessed in over seven years.

“Today we sent the Governor a letter regarding the ongoing deterioration of Mr. Panetti’s condition based on our visits in the last three weeks. We also raised the issue that the District Attorney failed to notify us that the warrant was issued and we lost fourteen critical days when we could have been working on the case, only learning a date had been set through media rather than official channels.  We urge the Governor to use his executive power to grant a stay in order to examine Mr. Panetti’s competency for execution. There is still time to stop this unconscionable execution of a severely mentally ill man who would die without comprehending what his death means.”

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

-December 1, 2014

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denial can be accessed here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQTkxvNks3SnZYRERnUllNeDFWMGlaOXNUbGhz/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.

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

Citing trends which demonstrate an emerging consensus against the use of capital punishment against people with severe mental illness, attorneys for Mr. Panetti today filed for a stay of execution at the U.S. Supreme Court, with a petition for a writ of certiorari challenging the constitutionality of Mr. Panetti’s execution. Mr. Panetti was diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder decades before the crime for which he is scheduled to be executed this Wednesday.

Today’s cert petition argues that the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment includes a prohibition on executing persons with severe mental illness, like Mr. Panetti.

Today’s Petition for a Writ of Certiorari can be accessed here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7Y2RPalhCS1BVazBlU0VoRExYUjNQckNFZHZB/view?usp=sharing

Today’s Motion for a Stay of Execution can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7Umxlc3BEWmV1bzNSYXExRXZPc0dOdG9CWUhF/view?usp=sharing

A new nationwide poll, released today, states that American oppose the execution of the mentally ill by a 2-1 margin: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7R3dCM2VJbTJiTjVYVDVodjVVSTNJbHgxZWlB/view

On November 26th, three judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote powerful dissents in favor of relief in the case, including Judge Tom Price who stated: “I would grant applicant’s motion for a stay of execution and would hold that his severe mental illness renders him categorically ineligible for the death penalty under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

“It is inconceivable to me how the execution of a severely mentally ill person such as applicant would measurably advance the retribution and deterrence purposes purportedly served by the death penalty.

“I can imagine no rational reason for carving a line between the prohibition on the execution of a mentally retarded person or an insane person while permitting the execution of a severely mentally ill person. At a minimum, therefore, I would hold that the execution of a severely mentally ill person violates the Eighth Amendment of the federal Constitution.”

Judge Elsa Alcala, joined by Judge Cheryl Johnson found that Mr. Panetti had raised a “compelling argument” that the Eighth Amendment forbids the execution of the seriously mentally ill and that the majority had not given “greater consideration” to his argument. They would have stayed Mr. Panetti’s execution and permitted further briefing of the Eighth Amendment issue.

The CCA Order and Dissents can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQa1czZHZmNHk0SXlVU3pKZkpnd0pId1owRnVB/view?usp=sharing

Citing new research, the cert petition 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 “ death sentences were imposed in only 5 of 68 cases, a capital sentencing rate of 7.35%.” (p. 29)

Furthermore, “the last time a defendant adjudicated GBMI [guilty but mentally ill] was sentenced to death was at least 20 years ago,” (p. 30).

As the petition states, “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. 31)

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 issued policy statements recommending an outright ban on the death penalty for offenders with severe mental brain damage (dementia and traumatic brain injury) and a ban on the death penalty or offenders with severe mental illness whose condition diminished their responsibility for their crimes.” (pp. 31-32)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (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 petition notes that “[i]mposition of the death penalty on people with severe mental illness, as with people with intellectual disability [who are protected from the death penalty], does not serve the two goals of deterrence and retribution because of their reduced moral culpability.” (p. 35)

Furthermore, the petition notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has “expressed concern that the cognitive limitations of the intellectually disabled, as manifested in a trial setting, may lead to the death penalty being ‘imposed in spite of factors which may call for a less severe penalty,'” (p. 36) including a greater chance of false confessions, the decreased ability of defendants with severe mental illness to meaningfully assist counsel, being problematic witnesses and the fact that their demeanor can create an impression of lack of remorse. According to the petition, “these very same factors – also present among the population of the severely mentally ill – may also result in the death penalty being imposed upon a severely mentally ill defendant despite the presence of other mitigating factors that call for a less severe penalty.” (p. 37)

This was certainly the case with Mr. Panetti who “displayed ‘bizarre, 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.” (p. 37)

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. 21)

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 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; 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.

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 theEuropean Union, which represents twenty-eight nations.

Also today, over a dozen national leaders of the conservative movement sent a letter asking Governor Perry to commute the death sentence of Mr. Panetti to a life sentence if the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends it: http://www.constitutionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Panetti-clemency-letter-Nolan.pdf

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: http://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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01 December 2014 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Scott Panetti appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

For Immediate Release: December 1, 2014

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

Schizophrenic TX Death Row Prisoner Appeals Constitutionality of Scheduled December 3rd Execution to the U.S. Supreme Court

Cites New Evidence of Emerging Consensus: Executing the Severely Mentally Ill Violates the Eighth Amendment’s Protection From Cruel and Unusual Punishment

(Washington, DC, December 1, 2014) Citing trends which demonstrate an emerging consensus against the use of capital punishment against people with severe mental illness, attorneys for Mr. Panetti today filed for a stay of execution at the U.S. Supreme Court, with a petition for a writ of certiorari challenging the constitutionality of Mr. Panetti’s execution. Mr. Panetti was diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder decades before the crime for which he is scheduled to be executed this Wednesday, December 3rd, in Texas.

Today’s cert petition argues that the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment includes a prohibition on executing persons with severe mental illness, like Mr. Panetti.

Today’s Petition for a Writ of Certiorari can be accessed here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7Y2RPalhCS1BVazBlU0VoRExYUjNQckNFZHZB/view?usp=sharing

Today’s Motion for a Stay of Execution can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7Umxlc3BEWmV1bzNSYXExRXZPc0dOdG9CWUhF/view?usp=sharing

Also today, attorneys filed an Original Writ for Habeas Corpus, which can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7b010WkQzOGM5S1I4OEl4d1d0VGR6N1hZQUlF/view?usp=sharing

Despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, Mr. Panetti represented himself at his capital murder trial in 1995. Wearing a Tom Mix-style 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.

“Mr. Panetti is a very sick man who has had schizophrenia for decades,” said Kathryn Kase, co-counsel for Mr Panetti, and Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service. “Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness has caused concern among numerous judges who issued multiple powerful dissents last week and has galvanized extensive support for relief in his case from the mental health community. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, Disability Rights Texas and many others have expressed that no retributive or deterrent value is achieved by carrying out lethal injection against a man as sick as Scott Panetti. The widespread support for relief in this case includes not only the mental health community but also leading legal organizations, and others, and is supported by new information regarding sentencing practices, which clearly show a trend against using the death penalty when defendants have severe mental illness, as well as the universal opinion of mental health experts and polling data.”

A new nationwide poll, released today, states that American oppose the execution of the mentally ill by a 2-1 margin: (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7RDJBZzA2NGJzWG8/view)

On November 26th, three judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote powerful dissents in favor of relief in the case, including Judge Tom Price who stated: “I would grant applicant’s motion for a stay of execution and would hold that his severe mental illness renders him categorically ineligible for the death penalty under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

“It is inconceivable to me how the execution of a severely mentally ill person such as applicant would measurably advance the retribution and deterrence purposes purportedly served by the death penalty.

“I can imagine no rational reason for carving a line between the prohibition on the execution of a mentally retarded person or an insane person while permitting the execution of a severely mentally ill person. At a minimum, therefore, I would hold that the execution of a severely mentally ill person violates the Eighth Amendment of the federal Constitution.”

Judge Elsa Alcala, joined by Judge Cheryl Johnson found that Mr. Panetti had raised a “compelling argument” that the Eighth Amendment forbids the execution of the seriously mentally ill and that the majority had not given “greater consideration” to his argument. They would have stayed Mr. Panetti’s execution and permitted further briefing of the Eighth Amendment issue.

The CCA Order and Dissents can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQa1czZHZmNHk0SXlVU3pKZkpnd0pId1owRnVB/view?usp=sharing

Citing new research, the cert petition 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 “ death sentences were imposed in only 5 of 68 cases, a capital sentencing rate of 7.35%.” (p. 29)

Furthermore, “the last time a defendant adjudicated GBMI [guilty but mentally ill] was sentenced to death was at least 20 years ago,” (p. 30).

As the petition states, “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. 31)

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 issued policy statements recommending an outright ban on the death penalty for offenders with severe mental brain damage (dementia and traumatic brain injury) and a ban on the death penalty or offenders with severe mental illness whose condition diminished their responsibility for their crimes.” (pp. 31-32)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (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 petition notes that “[i]mposition of the death penalty on people with severe mental illness, as with people with intellectual disability [who are protected from the death penalty], does not serve the two goals of deterrence and retribution because of their reduced moral culpability.” (p. 35)

Furthermore, the petition notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has “expressed concern that the cognitive limitations of the intellectually disabled, as manifested in a trial setting, may lead to the death penalty being ‘imposed in spite of factors which may call for a less severe penalty,'” (p. 36) including a greater chance of false confessions, the decreased ability of defendants with severe mental illness to meaningfully assist counsel, being problematic witnesses and the fact that their demeanor can create an impression of lack of remorse. According to the petition, “these very same factors – also present among the population of the severely mentally ill – may also result in the death penalty being imposed upon a severely mentally ill defendant despite the presence of other mitigating factors that call for a less severe penalty.” (p. 37)

This was certainly the case with Mr. Panetti who “displayed ‘bizarre, 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.” (p. 37)

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. 21)

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 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; 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.

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 Illness (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: http://texasdefender.org/scott-panetti.

Additionally, a petition started by Mr. Panetti’s sister, Vicki Panetti, has been signed by over 90,000 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, Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c).

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01 December 2014 ~ Comments Off

New Poll: Americans Opposed to Death Penalty for People with Mental Illness

For Immediate Release: December 1, 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 Nationwide Poll Shows Americans Oppose Death Penalty in Cases where Person has Mental Illness By 2-1 Margin

Scott Panetti, a Schizophrenic Man, Scheduled for Execution this Wednesday in Texas; Today’s Poll Adds to Emerging National Consensus Against Executions in Cases Like Scott Panetti’s

(Chapel Hill, NC, December 1, 2014) A new poll by Public Policy Polling released today found that Americans oppose the death penalty for persons with mental illness by a margin of 2 to 1. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they opposed the death penalty for persons with mental illness, while only 28% favored it. Opposition was consistent across all political parties, with a majority of Democrats (62%), Republicans (59%), and Independents(51%) all indicating they opposed the death penalty for the mentally ill, and across all regions of the country. Respondents from the Midwest showed the strongest opposition with 64% saying they opposed the death penalty for the mentally ill, followed by the West with 61% opposed, and the South and Northeast–both with 55% opposed.

The new poll can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1LFfr8Iqz_7R3dCM2VJbTJiTjVYVDVodjVVSTNJbHgxZWlB/view?usp=sharing

Opposition to the death penalty for persons with mental illness was also strong across both genders, and all income and education levels.

The survey of 943 registered voters was conducted on November 24-25, 2014 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1.  The survey was commissioned by Robert Smith, an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Today’s important polling is part of significant new research which clearly shows an emerging consensus against using capital punishment in cases where the defendant is mentally ill,” said Professor Smith. “The poll joins other new data demonstrating that sentencing trends are down across the country for death-eligible defendants with severe mental illness. Combining this public polling, sentencing practices, and the recommendations of the mental health medical community, it’s clear that a consensus is emerging against the execution of a person like Scott Panetti, who suffers from a debilitating illness which is similar to intellectual disability in that it lessens both his culpability and arguable social value of his execution.”

Mr. Panetti, who has been diagnosed with both schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder for over three decades, was permitted to represent himself at his capital trial in Kerrville, TX in 1995. Acting as his own counsel, Mr. Panetti appeared at his capital trial in a cowboy costume and attempted to call over 200 witnesses, including living and dead celebrities, to the stand. He declined to accept a plea deal that would have spared his life, and was sentenced to death. Mr. Panetti is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, December 3rd at 6 p.m. Central time.

In Mr. Panetti’s most recent habeas petition, which was denied on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 in a split decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQRWZpbWdQZkV3d0xRTFI2RWE3M21WZXcyYlQ0/view), attorneys cited new research from a forthcoming empirical study 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)

For more information about today’s poll or if you would like to speak with Professor Smith or the attorneys representing Scott Panetti, please contact Laura Burstein at: Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com or 202-626-6868 (o) and 202-669-3411 (c).

For more information about the Scott Panetti case: www.texasdefender.org/scott-panetti

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26 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas Court Split Again on Granting Stay of Execution to Scott Panetti

Just In: Following a 5-4 divided ruling on Tuesday, today a 6-3 splintered Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) again denied a stay of execution on Eighth Amendment grounds for Scott Panetti, a schizophrenic man scheduled for execution on December 3, 2014. On November 24, attorneys filed a challenge to the use of the death penalty against persons with severe mental illness because there is an emerging consensus against the imposition of the death penalty on people with severe mental illness, like Mr. Panetti.

In a powerful dissent, Judge Tom Price wrote:

“I would grant applicant’s motion for a stay of execution and would hold that his severe mental illness renders him categorically ineligible for the death penalty under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

“It is inconceivable to me how the execution of a severely mentally ill person such as applicant would measurably advance the retribution and deterrence purposes purportedly served by the death penalty.

“I can imagine no rational reason for carving a line between the prohibition on the execution of a mentally retarded person or an insane person while permitting the execution of a severely mentally ill person. At a minimum, therefore, I would hold that the execution of a severely mentally ill person violates the Eighth Amendment of the federal Constitution.”

Judge Elsa Alcala, joined by Judge Cheryl Johnson found that Mr. Panetti had raised a “compelling argument” that the Eighth Amendment forbids the execution of the seriously mentally ill and that the majority had not given “greater consideration” to his argument. They would have stayed Mr. Panetti’s execution and permitted further briefing of the Eighth Amendment issue.

The CCA Order and Dissents can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQa1czZHZmNHk0SXlVU3pKZkpnd0pId1owRnVB/view?usp=sharing

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

“In powerful dissents issued yesterday and today, judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals reflect the same concerns that  people across the country have expressed about the impending execution of Scott Panetti. Today’s dissent from Judge Tom Price, argues what tens of thousands of others across the nation have expressed – that executing a person as severely mentally ill as Scott Panetti will serve no retributive or deterrent value. New research shows that there is a growing trend across states against imposing the harshest punishment on people with severe mental illness. Certainly a consensus has emerged in this case, demonstrated by the widespread support for relief from the mental health community, the conservative faith community, the leading legal organizations, among others, that the execution of Mr. Panetti, who has suffered from schizophrenia for three decades, would cross a moral line. We will challenge today’s ruling and demonstrate that the execution of the Scott Panetti would be cruel and unusual punishment.”

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

-November 26, 2014

Yesterday’s Ruling and Dissents

On Tuesday, November 25th, 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 Mr. Panetti. 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.

The appeal, which was appealed on Tuesday to the federal district court, 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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25 November 2014 ~ Comments Off

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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