Archive | Stay of execution

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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14 October 2014 ~ Comments Off

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Stays Execution of Larry Hatten

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed the execution of Larry Hatten, which was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, October 15, 2014.  According to the Associated Press and reposted by KVUE, the court issued Hatten “a reprieve to resolve a 1997 filing with his trial court in Nueces County. The judges said Monday in a three-page ruling that the filing never was decided by the trial court and was never properly forwarded to the appeals court.”

The appeals court has given the trial court six months to resolve the claims in the in filing.

A Nueces County jury sentenced Hatten to death for the 1995 shooting death of 5-year-old Isaac Jackson in Corpus Christi. Jackson was killed while in bed with his mother, Tabatha Thompson, who was also severely injured. Hatten reportedly suffers from mental illness and has been forcibly medicated at times while incarcerated.  Earlier this year he decided to forego any further appeals in his case.

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13 May 2014 ~ Comments Off

5th Circuit Grants Stay of Execution to Robert Campbell

BREAKING: The Fifth Circuit has just stayed tonight’s scheduled execution of Robert Campbell.
 
The Court’s order is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxR5nee8pBYQRTdueVlpM2doVkE/edit?usp=sharing
 
Below is a statement from Robert C. Owen, one of Mr. Campbell’s attorneys:
 
“Today the Fifth Circuit has ruled that Texas may not proceed with the scheduled execution of Robert Campbell, a man whose lifelong mental retardation was not proven until new evidence, long hidden by prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, very recently came to light.
 
‘The Fifth Circuit’s decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public. Mr. Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation. Therefore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.  Given the state’s own role in creating the regrettable circumstances that led to the Fifth Circuit’s decision today, the time is right for the State of Texas to let go of its efforts to execute Mr. Campbell, and resolve this case by reducing his sentence to life imprisonment.  State officials should choose the path of resolution rather than pursuing months or years of further proceedings.”  
 
-Robert C. Owen, Attorney for Robert Campbell, May 13, 2014

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02 April 2014 ~ Comments Off

Federal Judge Stays Executions, Orders Release of Drug Supply Source to Attorneys; Case Now Heads to U.S. Supreme Court

Update 4/3/14: Yesterday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice must disclose the source of its new drug supply to attorneys for two inmates facing imminent execution.  The case now heads to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.  Read more from the Houston Chronicle.

Earlier today, a federal judge temporarily halted the executions of Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez Llanas – scheduled for April 3 and April 9, respectively – “declaring that the state’s prison system must disclose to defense attorneys more information about the supplier of a new batch of lethal-injection drugs.” (“Judge halts Texas executions over drug secrecy,” Associated Press, April 2, 2014)

According to the AP, “[U.S. District Judge Vanessa] Gilmore ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide defense attorneys with information about the supplier and how the drug was tested.”   Officials with TDCJ have refused to identify the source of the newly obtained supply of pentobarbital, the sole drug now used in Texas’ lethal injection protocol.

The state reportedly plans to appeal Judge Gilmore’s ruling.

Here’s a statement from attorneys Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross, attorneys for the Plaintiffs (Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez Llanas):

“The District Court’s Order honors and reflects the crucial importance of transparency in the execution process.  We hope that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will finally decide to comply with the law, and cease attempting to shroud in secrecy one aspect of their job that, above all others, should be conducted in the light of day.  It is TDCJ’s attempt to manipulate the system and evade accountability and the rule of law that compelled this last minute litigation, and the need for a stay of execution to permit Plaintiffs and the courts to review the constitutionality of the means and methods by which Texas intends to carry out their execution.”

— Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross, attorneys for the Plaintiffs | April 2, 2014

Read more about today’s developments from the Associated Press (published in the Houston Chronicle) and the Austin American-Statesman.  Links courtesy of Steve Hall at StandDown Texas.

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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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09 October 2013 ~ Comments Off

Attorneys for Michael Yowell Ask Supreme Court to Stay Execution

Update as of 7:00 PM: Despite serious questions about the compounded drugs obtained by Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to stop tonight’s scheduled execution of Michael Yowell.  Below is a statement from attorneys for Mr. Yowell.

The State of Texas executed Michael Yowell at 7:11 PM this evening.

Statement from Attorneys for Michael Yowell

“We are extremely disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied Michael Yowell’s appeal asking that the public and the courts have meaningful access to information about how Texas plans to put him to death. In Mr. Yowell’s case, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not reveal information about the drug it intended to use for his execution until one week before tonight’s scheduled execution date.

‘In carrying out Mr. Yowell’s execution, Texas intends to use compounded penobarbital, for the first time.  This shift to compounded drugs is a dramatic change from prior practice – making the need for oversight – now and in the future – that much more important.

‘To permit the TDCJ to wait until the last minute to disclose such crucial information essentially shields them from any review, allowing it to make decisions about how to execute people without any accountability or transparency.  Surely this is not the way we want our government to carry out its most solemn duty.”

-Maurie Levin and Bobbie Stratton, October 9, 2013 

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This afternoon, attorneys for Michael Yowell, who is scheduled to be executed in Texas this evening, filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay based on serious questions surrounding the drugs the State plans to use in tonight’s execution. Below is a statement from attorneys for Mr. Yowell.

Statement from Attorneys for Michael Yowell

“Today, we have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure that our the public and the courts have meaningful access to relevant information regarding how the State of Texas plans to put to death our client, Michael Yowell. In this case, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not reveal information about the drug it intended to use for his execution until one week before the scheduled execution date.

‘In carrying out Mr. Yowell’s execution, the state of Texas intends to use compounded penobarbital, for the first time.  This shift to compounded drugs is a dramatic change from prior practice – making the need for oversight – now and in the future – that much more important.

‘To permit the TDCJ to wait until the last minute to disclose such crucial information essentially shields them from any review, allowing it to make decisions about how to execute people without any accountability or transparency.  Surely this is not the way we want our government to carry out its gravest duty.”

-Maurie Levin and Bobbie Stratton, October 9, 2013 

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Contact:

Maurie Levin, maurielevin@gmail.com

512-294-1540

Bobbie Stratton of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell

bstratton@bakerdonelson.com

713-650-9700

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07 October 2013 ~ Comments Off

Pharmacy Asks Texas to Return Drugs Intended for Use in Execution

Last month, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) announced that although their current supply of pentobarbital had expired, they had no plans to change the lethal injection protocol. At the time, officials did not disclose the source of the drugs they now are using in executions in Texas.

It now has come to light that TDCJ obtained pentobarbital from a local compounding pharmacy, which has demanded its return.  Please see below for a press release issued today by the attorneys for three inmates who are suing for more information and who seek to halt the October 9 scheduled execution of Michael Yowell in order to permit time for review of Texas’ last-minute change to the use of compounded drugs.

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 7, 2013

Contact: Maurie Levin, maurielevin@gmail.com

512-294-1540

Bobbie Stratton or Brad Chambers of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell

bstratton@bakerdonelson.com

bchambers@bakerdonelson.com

713-650-9700

Pharmacy Asks Texas to Return Drugs Intended for Use in Wednesday Execution

Civil Rights Plaintiffs Appealing Judge’s Order; Assert that TDCJ’s Promise that the purchase of execution drugs would be kept on the “down low” is additional evidence of TDCJ’s continued effort to carry out executions without transparency or accountability

(Austin, TX, Monday, October 7, 2013) A Texas compounding pharmacy that recently sold compounded pentobarbital to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for use in executions is demanding that the state return the drugs scheduled to be used in an execution on Wednesday. An appeal with the Fifth Circuit will be filed this week asking the court to stay Michael Yowell’s execution to permit time for review of Texas’ last-minute change to the use of compounded drugs. This weekend, a letter from Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice came to light in lethal injection in federal court in Arizona.  The letter states in part:

“Based on the phone calls I had with Erica Minor of TDCJ regarding its request for these drugs, including statements that she made to me, it was my belief that this information would be kept on the ‘down low’ and that it was unlikely that it would be discovered that my pharmacy provided these drugs.  Based on Ms. Minor’s requests, I took steps to ensure it would be private.  However, the State of Texas misrepresented this fact because my name and the name of my pharmacy are posted all over the internet.”

The letter concludes: “I must demand that TDCJ immediately return the vials of compounded pentobarbital in exchange for a refund.”

The letter was sent in the midst of a civil rights lawsuit filed by Texas prisoners seeking information about the drugs TDCJ intends to use to carry out executions. The letter was only discovered when it was filed in a lethal injection action in Arizona District Court sometime on Friday.  The attorneys for the inmates and for TDCJ were in Court Friday afternoon on a hearing on a request for a stay of Mr. Yowell’s scheduled execution in light of Texas’ efforts to keep information about how it intends to proceed with executions secret, and the risks inherent to compounded drugs – risks that have recently been the subject of Congressional hearings in the wake of the fungal meningitis outbreak.

Public records requests show that TDCJ has stockpiled a variety of drugs, none of which ever has been used in an execution. It was not until last Thursday that media discovered TDCJ plans to carry out upcoming executions using compounded pentobarbital purchased from Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, located in Houston.

Maurie Levin, one of the plaintiffs’s attorneys, said, “The letter from Woodlands Pharmacy is further evidence of TDCJ’s lack of good faith, reflected both in the way they’ve gone about  attempts to purchase lethal injection drugs, and in their misleading responses to requests for information about how they intend to carry out executions.  Both have thwarted true access to the courts.”

Bobbie Stratton, one of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs at the Houston office of Baker Donelson said, “At the heart of this lawsuit is the basic premise that governmental agencies owe us, the public, a duty of transparency, deliberation, and accountability – especially when they are carrying out the ultimate act – the taking of a human life.”

Background

The lawsuit at issue was filed last week by three death-sentenced prisoners in Texas.  It is a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), asserting that TDCJ has failed to disclose, in a timely and meaningful fashion, the drugs they will use to carry out executions and that this failure violates death row inmates’ constitutional rights.  The suit also alleges that known problems with compounded drugs amount to a substantial risk that inmates will suffer severe pain, or that that drug will be inadequate to accomplish an execution.

Documents revealed at the Friday hearing in federal district court Judge Hughes’ courtroom reflect that TDCJ (or Woodlands Pharmacy) asked Eagle Analytical Labs to test the compounded pentobarbital for purity.  Just three months ago an FDA inspection report listed numerous problems with the Lab, including problems with sterility, contamination, validation, test protocol, and staff training.  One note indicates that staff performing a certain test (bacterialendotoxin) were never training in the “principles and methodologies of the test.”

Eagle Analytical is a subsidiary of PCCA, or Professional Compounding Centers of America.  PCCA supplies ingredients to compounding pharmacies, including Woodlands.

Late Saturday afternoon, Judge Hughes denied Mr. Yowell’s request for a temporary restraining order, thus allowing the execution, scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, to proceed without meaningful review of the new drugs.  The Plaintiffs are appealing that order to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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10 May 2013 ~ Comments Off

State Agrees to 60-Day Reprieve for Robert Pruett

*Updated on May 15, 2013* A state district judge has formally withdrawn the May 21 execution date for Robert Pruett.  A hearing will take place on June 3 regarding the DNA testing and to set a new date.  Read more in the Austin Chronicle.

According to the Texas Tribune (“Execution for Prison Guard Murder Delayed for DNA Tests,” May 9, 2013), “State lawyers agreed Thursday to a 60-day reprieve for death row inmate Robert Pruett, who was scheduled for execution May 21, after the inmate filed a request for DNA testing, arguing it may prove his innocence in the 1999 stabbing of prison correctional officer Daniel Nagle.”  The focus of the DNA test is a palm print found on a disciplinary write-up that was torn up and spread near Nagel’s body.

Read more from the Texas Tribune, including an earlier article about the case.

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In other case developments, today’s Austin Chronicle includes an update on legal appeals on behalf of Jeffrey Williams, who is scheduled to be executed on May 15, 2012.  Read the article.  Thanks to Steve Hall at StandDown Texas for posting.

 

 

 

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