Monday, June 01, 2009

 

Paul Reid: A case of long-term, severe mental illness

Paul Dennis Reid suffers, not only from severe mental illness, but from a congenital brain defect. His brain is physically deformed as he is missing a portion of his left temporal lobe – the part of the brain that processes information from other regions of the brain, facilitates memory, and helps integrate emotions with cognition. Throughout his life, Reid has displayed symptoms of severe mental illness and has been given a number of psychiatric diagnoses. He lives in a delusional world where an invisible force that he calls "Scientific Technology," operated by the government, videotapes everything he does, inserts thoughts into his brain and excruciatingly painful sensations into his body, and toys with him as part of a bizarre experiment in which he is treated as a lab rat.

In his world, everything that happens is scripted by "Scientific Technology." The prosecutors, the judge, his lawyers, and everyone else involved in his case are "scripted" by "Scientific Technology" as part of its experiment. He believes that when the experiment is over, he will be released from prison and given a multi-million dollar award. In the meantime, he insists that "Scientific Technology's" surveillance videos of every moment of his life would exonerate him, if only the government would release the video tapes.

Reid's life-long mental illness was recognized more than two decades ago when the Texas courts twice found him to be incompetent to stand trial. He spent an extended period of time in a psychiatric correctional facility receiving Thorazine and other powerful antipsychotic medications.

Simply put, Reid is out of touch with reality. Every independent medical expert who has examined Paul in recent years agrees that he lives in a world unknown to the rest of us. Paul's delusional disorder brings on profound suffering.

The Supreme Court says that it is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment to execute the insane – inmates who are so detached from reality that they cannot possibly understand or appreciate what is happening to them. Reid clearly falls within this category.

Yet, the State of Tennessee persists in trying to execute Paul Reid. He was most recently scheduled for execution when he dropped the appeals of his conviction for the 1997 murders of Angela Holmes and Michelle Mace who were kidnapped from a Clarksville Baskin Robbins. Reid's sister, Linda Martiniano, filed a petition as a "next friend" because he is not competent to make decisions about his case. Martiniano said that her brother "is severely mentally ill. He does not think or act in a rational manner. It seems that everything he does is guided by his belief in a government conspiracy against him to bombard him with 'Scientific Technology'." Reid tries to defy "Scientific Technology", which is his primary motive in dropping his appeals. He is certain that he will be released from prison, and he does not want to cooperate further with "Scientific Technology's" experiment.

Sadly, Paul Reid's case is not unique. Across the country, 5-10% death row inmates suffer from serious mental illness (Mental Health America's "Position Statement 54: Death Penalty and People with Mental Illness"). In Reid's case, as in the case of so many others, proper mental health treatment was never made available. His case illustrates the tragic failures of our mental health and criminal justice systems.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) all oppose the execution of those with serious mental illness.




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