Thursday, June 28, 2007


Crazy Enough?

This morning the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Scott Panetti, a severely mentally ill man set for execution in Texas. Panetti defended himself in his second trial dressed in a purple cowboy outfit and calling himself the Ringo Kid. He attempted to subpoena Jesus, the Pope, and John F. Kennedy for his defense. He believes that the state is trying to execute him to stop him from preaching the Gospel. Before his crime, he had been hospitalized more than a dozen times for his mental illness. You can learn more about Panetti's case here.

The Ford v. Wainwright decision has set the standard for mental competence to be executed, put briefly, an inmate must know that he is going to be executed and must know why. This is obviously an extremely vague and narrow definition, which is long overdue for review. In a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court has finally done just that!

We don't have the details of the ruling yet, or how it might effect the huge number of death row inmates around the country and in Tennessee who suffer from severe mental illness. Check back with us later in the day for updates!
Comments :
Ummmm . . . No, the Supreme Court did not do "just that!" Read the opinion. The Court refused to refine its standard for reviewing claims based on competency to be executed, instead holding that the state courts did not afford Panetti a sufficient opportunity to have his competency claim adjudicated under the Ford standard.
Actually, the court did refine its standard, it just did not set a new one. The opinion (if read closely) takes an important step toward pulling our legal understanding of mental illness out of the 19th Century, by acknowledging that courts should take severe psychosis into account!
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