Scott Louis Panetti, a severely mentally impaired Texas inmate who once wore a purple bandanna and a cowboy costume to his capital trial, called himself “Sarge,” and subpoenaed JFK, Jesus Christ, Anne Bancroft, and the Pope to testify in his defense, is scheduled to be executed on December 3, 2014. Kerr County District Attorney Bruce Curry asked for and received the date Mr. Panetti is to be killed, without notifying Panetti’s defense attorneys. Had it not been for a newspaper reporter asking questions, the defense would have remained uninformed.
Once a person is scheduled for execution, he can challenge it, through evaluations that show mental impairment and a lack of competency to understand impending execution. Pursuant to Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986), persons who are so out of touch with reality that they cannot understand their punishment or the purpose of it – cannot be executed. A petitioner who makes a Ford challenge is entitled to a competency evaluation.
By failing to inform defense counsel, Kerr County DA Curry intentionally, willfully and maliciously attempted to deprive Mr. Panetti of any meaningful opportunity to be evaluated for competency. In order to expedite the killing of a mentally impaired man and with disregard for common law and basic human decency, Curry sneaked around behind the defense attorneys’ backs, to get a death warrant and a death date. Now, and only because of a small article in a Houston newspaper, the defense will have one week to have their client evaluated before he is to be executed.
Upon learning of Mr. Panetti’s impending execution date by way of a newspaper article, the defense filed an Emergency Motion to Withdraw or Modify the December 3 Execution Date. Not surprisingly and sinking to the occasion, the prosecutor opposed the defense emergency motion, because prosecutors like this are not burdened with the likes of ethical conduct. Curry can engage in egregious prosecutorial misconduct and enjoy absolute immunity from suit or accountability, but even if he didn’t, he can rest assured that a dead man will never question his actions.The defense responded:
Conspicuously absent from the State’s Opposition to Defendant Scott Louis Panetti’s emergency motion to withdraw or modify the December 3, 2014 execution date is any mention of how a condemned inmate is to file an Article 46.05 motion if the State does not provide him with notice of the date. If a curious newspaper reporter had not inquired about the setting of the date, it is not clear how counsel for Mr. Panetti would ever have learned of the execution date. This kind of serendipity in a case where issues of sanity and competency run like a fissure from the arraignment to execution is unconscionable.
Many years prior to Mr. Panetti being allowed to represent himself in his own capital trial where he donned a cowboy costume, subpoenaed “Jesus Christ” with an address of “Heaven” and made casual chit-chat with witnesses using phrases like “flat-ironed you,” professionals who saw Panetti determined that he was seriously mentally ill. At one point, he buried furniture in the yard, claiming that the devil was in it. Prior to his arrest, he had been voluntarily and involuntarily committed fourteen times, where psychiatrists documented an extensive history of mental illness, including schizophrenia, manic depression, auditory hallucinations and paranoia.
In prison, Mr. Panetti’s condition has only deteriorated, and yet, seven years have passed since he was last evaluated for competency. Far from understanding the reason the state will kill him on December 3, he believes “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 to the condemned.”
Knowing full well that Panetti is severely mentally ill and hoping to avoid the employ of the likes of bogus ‘expert’ Alan Waldman to counter that reality by claiming that Panetti was faking his schizophrenia, the prosecutor hoped to pull an end run around due process, and schedule a kill date. The plan was that Panetti would be dead before his lawyers could have him evaluated, but since they happened to notice the newspaper clipping, they filed an emergency motion. Attorney Kathryn Kase, co-counsel for Mr. Panetti writes:
…[t]here can be no serious dispute that, because of Mr. Panetti’s long-standing and incurable psychotic disorder, he meets the threshold showing that entitles him to the appointment of two experts and an evidentiary hearing under Article 46.05 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,’ and that “[t]he U. S. Supreme Court held – in Mr. Panetti’s own case – that the procedure for determining a prisoner’s competency for execution must comport with due process under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.” (page 2)
“Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case. His execution now would cross a moral line and serve no penological purpose. It is reasonable and necessary for a competency hearing to take place before the State wrongly executes someone who is clearly incompetent for execution
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.
Scott Panetti’s trial and his impending execution is a perversion of justice where a prosecutor has willfully abandoned decency, to keep his self-serving railroad running on time.
<a href=”http://texasdefender.org/scott-panetti/media-release-scott-panetti/”>Media Release: Scott Panetti</a>
<a href=”http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/supreme-court-texas-execution-mentally-ill-scott-panetti”>We’re Going to Execute a Man Who Subpoenaed Jesus While Representing Himself Wearing a Purple Cowboy Suit</a>
<a href=”http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/txstatutes/CR/1/46/46.05″>Texas Statute Article 46.05</a>