Friday, August 23, 2013

USA: Scott Panetti Sane Enough For Execution

At least for now, inmate cleared for death

For the second time in nearly a decade, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Scott Panetti, a schizophrenic sent to death row for a 1992 double murder, is sane enough to be executed. Whether that means Panetti is actually closer to a date with the executioner, however, remains to be seen.

Panetti was convicted and sentenced to death for the Sept. 8, 1992 slaying of his in-laws, Joe and Amanda Alvarado, at the couple's home in Fredericksburg. Panetti had been hospitalized in connection with his illness at least 11 times prior to the slaying and was last released just two months before he killed the Alvarados. When he turned himself into police the afternoon of the murders he told investigators that "Sarge," a recurring auditory hallucination, was responsible for the crime. Panetti was heavily medicated when deemed competent to stand trial, but by the time he actually went to court for the crime he was off his meds and insisted on representing himself, a request granted by Kerr County District Judge Stephen Ables. At trial, Panetti wore a purple cowboy suit and subpoenaed hundreds of witnesses, including Jesus Christ and Anne Bancroft. Despite his bizarre and disturbing behavior, he was ultimately convicted in 1995.

Since then, however, Panetti's case has made it's way to the U.S. Supreme Court twice as questions persist about whether he is actually sane enough to be executed.

In 2004, federal District Judge Sam Sparks ruled that although Panetti is clearly seriously mentally ill, it was unlikely to make a difference to the Fifth Circuit, which held that Panetti only need a basic understanding of the relationship between his crime and execution in order to pass the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments.


Source: The Austin Chronicle, August 22, 2013