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