Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Executing the Insane: The Case of Scott Panetti

See this half hour video on the Scott Panetti death penalty case from the website of the Texas Defender Service, and documents from the appeal. Panetti had a history of schizophrenia but was still allowed to represent himself (if incoherently and ineffectively) in court. See also the New York Times coverage, StandDown Texas has Texas and national news roundups, and here's more on the case from the Lethal Injection blog.

8 comments:

Prison Writings, Interviews, and Art said...

Scott Panetti is one who truly does have mental problems. I wonder now, what will they do with him? Does Texas have a mental institution where they can put him to recieve the necessary medical attention he needs? Or will he just be transfered to a general population?

Anonymous said...

God's Commandment (Though shall not Murder ) doesn't exclude a mentally deficient person.

Neither should ours. A person excused for murder is very likly to murder again.

Our society today contunues to attempt to escape consequences.

I wish the victim had been able to escape their consequences.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Since you mention it, God's commandment 'Thou shalt not murder' doesn't exclude the state, either.

Mr. Panetti will not "escape consequences." He just won't be murdered by the state. Being imprisoned in a prison psych ward for the rest of your life isn't "excusing" anything.

As for the question from prison writings, there are a couple of mental institutions (in Rusk and Wichita Falls) where mentally ill offenders are housed. The more dangerous ones go to Rusk.

That said, I couldn't agree more about the victim. It's one of the reasons I think it's a disgrace we underinvest in mental health and use our prisons to warehouse mentally ill people. best,

Anonymous said...

"One Texas jury deadlocked on his competence to stand trial, but a second jury found him sane enough. Proclaiming himself healed by God as “a born-again April fool,” he refused further antipsychotic medication, dismissed his lawyers and won approval from the trial judge, Stephen B. Ables, to represent himself in court in 1995.

He appeared with a Tom Mix cowboy hat slung over his back, wearing purple western shirts and cowboy boots. He tried to subpoena Jesus and repeatedly ignored Judge Ables’s orders. But it was his often brutal cross-examination of his estranged wife, Sonja, forcing her to relive the murders in graphic detail, that clearly terrified the jurors, who convicted him in 90 minutes and sentenced him to death."

Was the fact that he was admitted to psychiatric hospitals 14 times for his illness prior to the murders ever presented to the jury? What judge in his right mind would allow someone like Panetti defend himself? That's crazy as hell!!

outspoken woman said...

anonymous 8:30AM...if you think for one instant that spending a lifetime locked up in any unit the state of Texas has isn't punishment enough, then you would be very, very wrong. Perhaps those who have already committed suicide inside the prisons in Texas could serve as a reminder that there can be a hell on earth, and there can be a punishment worse than death. As Grits says in his post, the state is not exempt from the very commandment you so righteously quote.
Apparently in your eagerness to murder those accused of murder, you have missed the headlines throughout the United States of innocent men being released from death row. IF a state murders an innocent person, pray tell, who pays for that crime? Do we then round up a few politicians or perhaps a few local wardens and strap them to the gurney? What does happen when the law murders an innocent person under the guise of the law? Absolutely nothing. Oops...made a bad call on that one. Oh well, just another convict dead....wait...was that really a convict?
No one is disputing that Scott Panetti committed murder. However, if you educate yourself on the facts you can't help but come to the conclusion that our legal system failed Scott in allowing that sham of a trial to even proceed. One does need to be medically trained to see that Scott was or is mentally incompetent. Yet, a judge allowed the circus to continue and 12 jurors did their civic duty by sentencing him to death. I don't know who needs to be institutionalized more, Scott or the judge and his jury. If this is the legal system you or any other Texan wants then we need to build a new, bigger mental institution to house all of you.
Where is it written that anyone is excusing Scott Panetti? Where is it written that Scott Panetti should ever be free again? You assume that because we aren't all ready to murder him, we are excusing him and setting him free. Again, you would be wrong.
In conclusion, while you are reading the Good Book and looking up quotes to justify the murder of others, I hope you come across other Scriptures that talk about compassion, forgiveness, and not judging others least you be judged.
There is no time like the present to abolish the death penalty, not only in Texas, but in this entire country.

Prison Writings, Interviews, and Art said...

Texas is too anxious to execute, despite the facts of the case. I wonder why. I know that executions are producing much $$$ for some people I wish I could get that list of names :-)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:30am, almost everyone that reads Grits is "preaching to the choir".....

Why do you read this blog? What motivated you to chime in on this subject?

Are you a victim of some horrible crime? If so, you might want to give some thought to all the victims a failed Texas Criminal Justice System including Mr. Panetti.

As a victim, I am disappointed that your post did not include more empathy for others that suffer through no fault of their own.

Anonymous said...

SCOTT PANETTI IS ALL BUT INSANE,SCOTT IS AS SANE AS THEY COME,THE MURDERS WERE PREMEDITATED,END OF STORY!.I HAVE PROOF AND THE TRUTH IS YET TO BE EXPOSED IN THE COMING MONTHS.FOLKS ARE JUST HEARING ONE SIDE OF THE STORY,WHICH IS THE PANETTI LIES THAT ARE ONLY GRASPING AT STRAWS WITH EXCUSES,THEN THE WHOLE WORLD WILL HEAR THE REAL STORY,THEN EVERYONE WILL OWE THE ALVARADO'S A HUGE APOLOGY AND THEN SOME.