Update as of 5:00 PM on May 14: We just learned that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of execution to Steven Staley. The court did not provide a reason for the reprieve, saying only that it had determined the execution should be halted “pending further order by this court.”
Read more from the Associated Press: http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Texas-inmate-set-to-die-Wednesday-gets-reprieve-3557337.php#ixzz1usupHkhP
Unless the courts intervene, on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, the State of Texas will execute Steven Staley for the 1989 murder of restaurant manager Bob Read, who was taken hostage during a robbery. At issue is Staley’s competency to be executed, given his long-standing diagnosis of severe mental illness.
Staley was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic after he arrived on death row in 1991. 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.
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. Texas’ statute does not address the issue of forced medication, however, and some state and federal courts have allowed it. According to Staley’s attorney, John Stickels, the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed the question of involuntary medication for the purposes of execution.
Read an earlier blog post on Steven Staley, which includes links to more information about the death penalty and severe mental illness.