Tuesday, June 27, 2006

 

TCASK Statement in Response to the Stay for Paul Reid

After the Tennessee state courts slammed the door on a clear case of serious mental illness, Federal District Court Judge Todd Campbell has called for a full competency hearing. Paul Dennis Reid’s mental health diagnoses, dating back to the 1970s, include schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and temporal lobe dysfunction. We are relieved that the state will not execute a man with long diagnosed brain damage and mental illness without a full inquiry into his mental competency.

The near execution of Paul Reid calls attention to Tennessee’s continuing practice of sentencing the mentally ill to death. Across the nation, one quarter of death row inmates suffer from severe, diagnosed mental illness, while more than 80% suffer from some mental impairment. Executing the mentally ill, who have diminished capacity for assisting in their defense, understanding their situations, and comprehending the consequences of their actions, is an abdication of justice. The execution of the mentally ill is opposed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

While we are pleased that the courts have upheld justice for people with severe mental illness like Paul Reid, we continue to grieve for the pain and loss experienced by the families of his victims. We regret that the capital punishment system continues to re-traumatize the family members of murder victims during the emotional roller coaster of the capital appeals process. For the sake of victims’ families, as well as justice and fairness, we continue to call for a halt to all executions.
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