Archive | severe mental illness

31 October 2013 ~ Comments Off

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Orders Competency Hearing for Marcus Druery

On October 30, 2013, in a unanimous decision, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruled that death row inmate Marcus Druery is entitled to a hearing to determine his mental competency to be executed.  Last year, the CCA granted Druery a stay just days before his scheduled execution on August 1, 2012; he was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2002 murder of Skyler Browne in rural Brazos County.

On July 27, 2012, the CCA stayed his execution to consider his appeal for a hearing to determine whether his psychotic disorder renders him incompetent. The case is now remanded for competency proceedings to the 85th Judicial District Court in Brazos County.

Kate Black, attorney for Mr. Druery, issued the following statement in response:

“We are pleased that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found sufficient evidence of Marcus Druery’s severe mental illness to warrant competency proceedings. Much of the evidence of Mr. Druery’s mental illness comes from the State’s own mental health professionals, who have repeatedly diagnosed Mr. Druery as schizophrenic, paranoid and delusional. A full hearing is critically important to establish that Mr. Druery lacks a rational understanding of his execution. We are confident that the Brazos County District Court will give Mr. Druery’s case the thorough and fair consideration it deserves in order to ensure that Texas does not execute a severely psychotic man.”

 Kate Black, Attorney for Marcus Druery
October 30, 2013

View in-depth coverage of the ruling from KBTX.com in Bryan/College Station.

Previous posts on the case of Marcus Druery are available on the TCADP blog here, here,  here, and here.

Link to CCA Ruling:

http://www.cca.courts.state.tx.us/OPINIONS/HTMLOPINIONINFO.ASP?OPINIONID=24764

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11 September 2013 ~ Comments Off

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rules that death row inmate cannot be forcibly medicated

A ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today, September 11, 2013, finds that a state district judge does not have the authority to order Texas death row inmate Steven Staley to be forcibly medicated in order to render him competent to be executed.   Staley has been on death row since 1991; he was convicted of the 1989 murder of Robert Read at a Fort Worth restaurant.

According to the Austin Chronicle (“Court Rules Judge Didn’t Have Right to Forcibly Medicate Death Row Inmate”, Sept. 11, 2013), “The ruling, by a 5-4 majority of the court, vacate’s a trial court’s order to forcibly medicate death row inmate Steven Staley, but is silent on whether the Texas Constitution would absolutely forbid the execution of someone forcibly drugged or whether Staley is too ill to be executed at all.”

Staley was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic soon after he arrived on death row.  At times over the last few years, he has been forced to take anti-psychotic drugs against his will.  Staley believes that the drugs are poisoning him.  State officials argue that this forced medication is necessary in order to render him competent to be executed.

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ford v. Wainwright that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who does not understand the reason for, or the reality of, his or her punishment.  The Ford decision left the determination of insanity and competency for execution up to each state, however, and it has not prevented the execution of scores of offenders with severe and persistent mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Read more about today’s ruling in the Staley case from the Austin Chronicle.  Previous posts on his case are available here.

From Brian Stull with the ACLU:
The Texas CCA ruling in Staley v. Texas is at:

http://www.cca.courts.state.tx.us/OPINIONS/HTMLOPINIONINFO.ASP?OPINIONID=24578

Additional coverage of the ruling, courtesy of Steve Hall at StandDown Texas:

Texas Tribune:

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/09/11/court-rules-mentally-ill-inmate-incompetent-execut/

Texas Tribune/Fort Worth Star Telegram:

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/09/11/5154220/death-row-inmate-cant-be-medicated.html?rh=1

 

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23 August 2013 ~ Comments Off

5th Circuit Deems Scott Panetti Competent for Execution

This week, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti is competent to be executed.  Panetti was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of his in-laws, Joe and Amanda Alvarado.  Kerr County District Judge Stephen Ables allowed Panetti to represent himself despite his long, documented history of paranoid schizophrenia and frequent hospitalizations.

Read a statement from Panetti’s attorney, Kathryn Kase, in response to the 5th Circuit’s ruling.

On June 28, 2007, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of  Panetti and blocked his scheduled execution. The court questioned the value of executing someone who does not comprehend why he is being put to death – Panetti believes that the state intends to execute him in order to prevent him from preaching the gospel in prison.

The Justices found that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals used “an improperly restrictive test” in deciding that Panetti was competent to be executed. The 5th Circuit had said that it did not matter what Panetti believed as long as he could acknowledge the murders as well as the stated purpose of his execution.  The Supreme Court decision sent the case back to a federal district judge, who held a hearing as to whether Panetti’s delusions are indeed so severe that he cannot make the connection between his crime and punishment and should be spared from execution.

Read more about that hearing and the 5th Circuit’s ruling from the Austin Chronicle.

The 5th Circuit, which considers cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, has never found a death row inmate incompetent to be executed.  At this time, Panetti does not have an execution date.

Watch a short film about Scott Panetti to learn more about his case and the toll it has taken on his family.

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18 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

Year-end report from DPIC shows “capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country”

Today, December 18, 2012, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) released its year-end report, The Death Penalty in 2012.  According to the report, the number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.  Several states, including North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina, did not impose any new death sentences this year.

For the second year in a row, 43 executions took place in the United States – just four states (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona) accounted for more than 75% of executions in 2012.

The report notes that for the eighth consecutive year, Texas executed more inmates than it sentenced to death, “foreshadowing a decline in executions in the future.”   Texas carried out 15 executions this year; nine individuals were sentenced to death.

Read the press release from DPIC.

Read the full report.

Read coverage by CNN, which also features a video clip of  Joel Osteen, Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, discussing his views on the death penalty.

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12 December 2012 ~ Comments Off

TCADP Report: Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CONTACT: Kristin Houlé, Executive Director
512-441-1808 (office); 512-552-5948 (cell)
khoule@tcadp.org

Use of Death Penalty Geographically Isolated, Arbitrarily Imposed in Texas,
According to New Report by TCADP

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex led state in pursuit of the death penalty in 2012

(Austin, Texas) — More than half of all new death sentences were imposed in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this year, while no new death sentences were imposed in Harris County for the third time in five years, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s (TCADP) new report, Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review.

New death sentences in Texas have declined more than 75% since 2002 and remain near historic low levels in 2012.  To date this year, juries have condemned nine new individuals to death in Texas, a slight increase over 2011 and 2010, when new death sentences fell to their lowest number since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas’ revised death penalty statute in 1976.  The verdict in a capital murder trial in Brazos County, in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, has been delayed indefinitely pending a legal dispute over jury instructions.

Tarrant and Dallas Counties each accounted for two new death sentences and Johnson County accounted for one.  Dallas County now leads the state in new death sentences since 2008, accounting for nearly 20% of sentences imposed in the last five years.  Dallas County also led the state in executions, accounting for 5 of the 15 executions carried out this year.

“While most of Texas is moving away from the death penalty, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was a major outlier both in new death sentences and executions this year,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  “2012 exemplified the arbitrariness that pervades the death penalty system in Texas.  Not only does it remain geographically isolated to just a few jurisdictions statewide, but it continues to be applied in a haphazard and unfair way, particularly when it comes to individuals with intellectual disabilities or severe mental illness and people of color.”

Seven of the new death row inmates in 2012 are African-American, one is Hispanic, and one is a white female.  Over the last five years, nearly 75% of death sentences in Texas have been imposed on people of color – 46% African-American and 28% Hispanic.  In Dallas County, this pattern is even more pronounced – of the eight men sentenced to death there since 2008, five are African-American and two are Hispanic.

Of the 15 men executed in Texas this year, seven were African-American, four were Hispanic, and four were white.

“Although Texas is using the death penalty less, the state still uses it disproportionately on people of color,” said Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service.  “This is a recurring problem and Texas’ failure to fix it demonstrates how broken its capital punishment system is.”

Troubling questions also persist regarding the arbitrary determination of who receives the ultimate punishment.  Cases involving individuals with comparable backgrounds or who presented similar legal arguments received vastly different treatment by the criminal justice system this year.

As one example of this arbitrariness, several death row inmates with diagnosed severe mental illnesses were scheduled for execution this year.  The executions of Steven Staley and Marcus Druery were halted pending unresolved issues related to their mental competency, while the execution of Jonathan Green, who reportedly suffered from schizophrenia, proceeded on October 10, 2012 after significant legal wrangling.

This disparate treatment was also evident in terms of issues related to intellectual disabilities.

Two inmates with recognized intellectual disabilities received reduced sentences and were removed from death row this year: Roosevelt Smith, convicted in 2007, and Anthony Pierce, who spent more than three decades on death row.  On the other hand, Marvin Wilson was executed on August 7, 2012 despite being diagnosed with an IQ of 61, well below the threshold of 70 for mental impairment.  His case created an international uproar and starkly illustrated the woefully inadequate and unscientific standards used by the State of Texas to determine which defendants with intellectual disabilities are protected from execution.

Other highlights of Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review:

  • The State of Texas accounted for more than a third of U.S. executions this year, a smaller percentage than in the past but nearly three times as many as any other state.  Texas has executed a total of 492 people since 1982 – 253 executions have occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001 – present), more than any other governor in U.S. history.
  • Six inmates scheduled for execution in 2012 received reprieves.  In addition, three execution dates were withdrawn.
  • Death-qualified juries rejected the death penalty in the sentencing phase in four trials this year and instead opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In all four cases, the jury determined that the defendant did not pose a future danger.  Over the last five years, death-qualified juries have rejected the death penalty in at least 20 capital murder trials.
  • According to research by TCADP, the Texas death row population stands at its lowest level since 1989.  As of November 16, 2012, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice counted 289 death row inmates, which includes 10 women.

“Attitudes toward the death penalty are shifting as public confidence in the ultimate punishment continues to erode,” said Houlé.  “As we approach the start of the 83rd Texas Legislature, TCADP urges concerned citizens and elected officials to confront the realities of this irreversible punishment and reconsider the efficacy and cost of the death penalty as a means of achieving justice.”

TCADP is a statewide, grassroots advocacy organization based in Austin.

Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2012: The Year in Review is available online at www.tcadp.org/TexasDeathPenaltyDevelopments2012.pdf.  Contact report author Kristin Houlé at khoule@tcadp.org to receive a copy directly via email.  See the report for tables illustrating Texas’ highest-use counties from 2008-2012, the race of defendants sentenced to death in the last five years, and additional graphs depicting recent trends.

See http://tcadp.org/2008-2012-new-death-sentences/ for a map of new death sentences by county from 2008 to 2012.

See http://tcadp.org/1976-2012-county-map/ for a map of death sentences by county from 1976 to 2012.

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11 October 2012 ~ 1 Comment

State of Texas Executes Jonathan Green

Late last night, October 10, 2012, the State of Texas executed Jonathan Marcus Green for the 2000 rape, abduction, and murder of 12-year-old Christina Neal in Montgomery County.  The execution occurred after much legal wrangling over Green’s mental competency.  He reportedly suffered from schizophrenia, including severe hallucinations, for which he received no medication.  In 2010, Green received a last-minute stay of execution due to issues surrounding his competency.

Earlier in the week, a federal judge stayed the execution on an appeal from Green’s attorneys challenging a state district judge’s decision two years ago that he was mentally competent for execution.  According to the Associated Press (“Texas inmate executed for killing 12-year-old girl,” October 10, updated October 11, 2012), “U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas ruled Monday that attorneys for Green weren’t properly allowed at a state competency hearing to present testimony from mental health professionals who treated him.”  The Texas Attorney General’s office appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals, which then lifted the stay.  The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene.   The AP reports that “11th-hour appeals delayed the punishment nearly five hours past the initial 6 p.m. execution time and as the midnight expiration of the death warrant neared.”

Green is the 10th person to be executed in Texas this year, out of 31 executions nationwide.  He is among more than 25 documented cases of people who have been executed in Texas despite being diagnosed with a severe mental illness.  The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which considers cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, has never found a death row inmate incompetent for execution.

Three more executions are scheduled to take place in Texas this month.

Read more in the Houston Chronicle.

Read previous posts here and here.

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08 October 2012 ~ 1 Comment

Federal Judge Grants Stay of Execution to Jonathan Green

According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas has stayed the execution of Jonathan Green, who was scheduled to be put to death on Wednesday, October 10 for the 2000 abduction and murder of Christina Neal in Montgomery County (“Federal judge stops execution this week in Texas,” October 8, 2012).  Judge Atlas ruled on an appeal from Green’s attorneys challenging a state district judge’s decision two years ago that he was mentally competent for execution.  Green reportedly suffers from schizophrenia for which he receives no medication.  He received a last-minute stay of execution in 2010.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Atlas said her ruling was concerned ‘only with the question whether Green is entitled to a stay of execution and not with the ultimate question of whether he is incompetent to be executed.’

‘It is clear from the record that, at a minimum, the trial court prevented Green from presenting testimony by treating mental health professionals, relied on an order solicited from and drafted by the state to which Green had no opportunity to object, and applied at least one incorrect legal standard,’ Atlas ruled.

Atlas left open the possibility of holding an evidentiary hearing on Green’s competency, writing in her ruling that while Green didn’t fail to develop the factual basis of his claim, ‘rather, he was prevented from doing so.’

She said the state court ‘unreasonably applied’ Supreme Court precedents and failed to provide Green due process.

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ford v. Wainwright that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who does not understand the reason for, or the reality of, his or her punishment.  The Ford decision left the determination of insanity and competency for execution up to each state, however, and it has not prevented the execution of scores of offenders with severe and persistent mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

In Texas, the state legislature did not establish a statute governing the process to determine competency to be executed until 1999, and the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which considers cases from Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, has never found a death row inmate incompetent for execution.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in another Texas death penalty case, Panetti v. Quarterman, that an inmate must possess a “rational understanding” of the reason for his or her execution.

Hours after Judge Atlas issued her ruling, the Attorney General’s Office announced plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Read more about the stay of execution and background about the case in the Houston Chronicle here and here.

More information about the case of Jonathan Green is available also in the Austin Chronicle (“The View from Death Row,” October 5, 2012).

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31 July 2012 ~ Comments Off

Houston Chronicle Lauds Druery Stay of Execution

A new editorial published by the Houston Chronicle (“Texas execution stay a wise move,” July 30, 2012) praises last week’s decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay the execution of Marcus Druery, noting that “The alternative, to execute a human being who may not even understand why he is being executed, would be barbaric.”

Druery was scheduled to be executed tomorrow, August 1, for the 2002 murder of Skyyler Browne, even though serious and disturbing questions surround his mental competency.   The CCA granted the stay in order to review his attorneys’ request for a full and fair competency hearing.

The editorial notes that the state does not dispute that Druery suffers from a psychotic disorder and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but still contends that he is competent to be executed and has fought against a competency hearing. Here’s an excerpt from the Chronicle:

We applaud the court’s decision, as far as it goes. We fervently hope that their review will persuade the justices to remand the case back to the Brazos County court for a competency hearing. Execution is irrevocable, and should never be invoked as long as a shred of doubt exists as to its constitutionality in any given case.

Read the full editorial.  Additional coverage of the case appears today in Salon.com “(“Marcus Druery: Another questionable Texas execution,” July 31, 2012).

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