Scott Panetti Case Roundup - ABA Journal - ABA president asks Texas governor for stay to consider inmate's competence for execution | More

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Steve Hall

Nov 13, 2014, 11:03:45 AM11/13/14

This e-mail contains news articles from:

                ABA Journal  - ABA president asks Texas governor for stay to consider inmate’s competence for execution

                Houston Press - Is Scott Panetti Too Mentally Ill for Execution? Does Texas Care?

                Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Supporters ask Texas officials to stop Scott Panetti's execution

                Sawyer County Record - Texas set to execute schizophrenic man with local ties

                Baptist News Global - Baptist leaders join plea to spare mentally ill man on death row

                WOAI-FM - Perry Asked to Halt Execution of Hill Country Killer

                Business Insider - Texas Is Going To Execute A Schizophrenic Who Represented Himself

Blog posts from:

                Daily Kos - Tell TX: Executing Mentally Ill Scott Panetti Would Cross ...

                FireDogLake - Over Easy: TX Prosecutor Schedules Execution for Scott Panetti ...

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Nov 13, 2014 | ABA Journal


ABA president asks Texas governor for stay to consider inmate’s competence for execution

By Debra Cassens Weiss


ABA President William C. Hubbard is asking the governor of Texas to stay the execution of a death row inmate to allow for a court evaluation of the prisoner’s mental health.


“The American Bar Association is greatly concerned that Texas is poised to execute Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from severe and incurable mental illness for over 30 years, before he is given a meaningful evaluation of his current competency for execution,” the letter (PDF) says.


The ABA has a strong interest in ensuring a fair and accurate justice system, though it has not taken a position on the death penalty per se, Hubbard writes. His letter asks Gov. Rick Perry for a stay to allow courts to determine whether Panetti has a mental disorder that “impairs his ability to have a rational understanding of the reasons for his punishment.”


Panetti was sentenced to death for killing his ex-wife’s parents after a 1995 trial in which Panetti wore a purple cowboy suit and tried to subpoena Jesus Christ and the Pope. Medical records indicate Panetti believes Satan has orchestrated his execution to prevent him from preaching the Gospel to the condemned.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on behalf of Panetti in a 2007 decision that found a federal appeals court used an “improperly restrictive test” when it considered his competency for execution. The ABA had submitted an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case contending that execution is unconstitutional if an inmate can’t understand the true reason a capital sentence is being carried out.


On remand, the courts upheld Panetti’s execution. The U.S. Supreme Court denied cert in Panetti’s case Oct. 6, and the execution was set for Dec. 3.


“The state of Texas now seeks to proceed with the execution of Mr. Panetti, even though it has been more than seven years since the last hearing to evaluate his competency,” Hubbard’s letter says. “Mr. Panetti has not received mental health treatment during this seven-year period, and older assessments may not accurately reflect his current mental state and competency to be executed.”


A statement by Hubbard is here.


Panetti’s lawyers are seeking a commutation of their client’s sentence to life in prison. Their clemency petition is here.


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Nov. 13 2014 | Houston Press


Is Scott Panetti Too Mentally Ill for Execution? Does Texas Care?

By Dianna Wray


Scott Panetti has been in that will-they-or-won't they execution limbo for about a decade.


However, by this time next month, Panetti will be dead, unless someone -- Gov. Rick Perry with a stay of execution or the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles with a commutation -- steps in. That's what a variety of people and organizations, including Christian evangelicals, the American Bar Association, the American Psychiatric Association and a whole bunch of legal experts and lawyers are requesting so that it can at least be determined whether Panetti, a diagnosed schizophrenic who has been documented with mental illness for more than 30 years, is mentally competent enough for execution. The clemency petition was filed Wednesday.


He's scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2014, the final punishment for the murders of Joe Alvarado and Amanda Alvarado, his parents-in-law on September 8, 1992 in Gillespie County. The thing is Panetti has suffered from mental illness for more than 30 years. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 1978 and was in and out of mental hospitals years before he committed the murders, and he didn't exactly get less erratic after.


"I'm sure there are people that say, 'Why do we care about this?' But when you run a criminal justice system and you're punishing people, it's important for people to understand why they're being punished. That becomes particularly complicated with the mentally ill," Kathryn Kase, a lawyer representing Panetti through the Texas Defender Service, says.


After Panetti was indicted and charged for the crime in 1992, he insisted on representing himself and the judge on the case allowed it. He wore a cowboy outfit, trimmed with purple, and carried a cowboy Bible throughout the trial.


His legal self defense didn't improve as the trial went on. He interrogated one prospective jury member as to whether the person had any "Indian blood," before launching into a tirade about an event he called "Wounded Elbow" -- apparently he confused the battle of Wounded Knee with something to do with the Ayatollah, according to the clemency petition. He attempted to call about 200 witnesses, including JFK and Jesus Christ. Reading the transcript of the trial, Kase says she couldn't believe that no one ever forced proper representation on him.


"There's a constitutional standard and it seems clear to me that Mr. Panetti was at no time rational and able to represent himself," she says. "And yet here we are 20 years down the road and the state is trying to kill him."


Unsurprisingly, he was convicted of capital murder, and sentenced to death in 1995. The problem is, it's unclear if Panetti was ever actually anywhere near what could even charitably be called sane. In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit's standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman.


However, while the case essentially turned Panetti into the poster child for the murky morality of executing the mentally ill, it didn't stop Texas officials from continuing to pursue his execution.


As we've mentioned before, the Fifth Circuit almost never finds anyone too mentally ill for execution. In 2013, the Fifth reviewed Panetti's case once more and again the justices ruled that Panetti was competent enough to be executed, despite a district court's finding that he has severe mental illness and paranoid delusions.


Finishing off this slog through the courts, last week the 216th in Kerrville denied requests to delay Panetti's execution so that he could have another competency review (he hasn't been reviewed since 2007, Kase says.) And now, that question is still up in the air, meaning that Panetti could conceivably be executed by the state without ever grasping why he was being punished -- Panetti reportedly believes his upcoming execution is the work of Satan to prevent him from preaching the gospel on Death Row.


If the clemency petition or the separate appeal sent to Perry by the American Bar Association gain any traction and a delay is granted, Kase says they would bring in mental health professionals to determine again whether Panetti is mentally competent enough to understand what he is being executed for. It's still possible that Panetti could again be found mentally ill, but competent enough to be executed, but at least then he would have been reviewed in the light of his current mental status, which Kase contends has deteriorated since his last review in 2007.


But really, this is about more than just Panetti, Kase acknowledges. "You know there's a saying that whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me, and if anyone is the least of our brothers that is Scott Panetti," Kase says. "The failure of the Texas criminal justice system to stop this travesty is unexplainable. Killing a mentally ill man crosses a moral line and I can't explain why Texas is choosing to do that."


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November 12, 2014 | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Supporters ask Texas officials to stop Scott Panetti's execution

By Meg Kissinger | of the Journal Sentinel


Lawyers for Wisconsin native Scott Panetti filed a petitions with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday to stop his Dec. 3 execution, calling it a "judicial disaster" that has attracted "national and international outrage."


"The execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line," said Greg Wiercioch, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and one of Panetti's lawyers. "His case cries out for mercy."


Dozens of mental health advocates, former prosecutors, religious leaders and the American Bar Association joined in the effort to convince Texas officials to spare Panetti, 56, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection for the 1992 shooting deaths of his ex-wife's parents. Twenty-two of the nation's leading psychiatrists and legal experts sent a letter to Perry saying Panetti, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, never should have been allowed to represent himself at his trial.


Panetti wore a purple cowboy suit and issued subpoenas to John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and the pope during his 1995 trial.


The medical and legal experts noted that Panetti had been discharged from the Navy in 1978 after he was diagnosed with paranoia and delusions. Over the next 14 years, he was hospitalized more than a dozen times as a danger to himself or others, including at three Wisconsin psychiatric facilities.


Panetti, a former Poynette High School football star, moved to Texas in the mid-1980s. His parents lived in Jump River in Taylor County until recently when they moved back to Texas to be near their son.


The Journal Sentinel detailed Panetti's case in a 1999 story.


Panetti was two days from being executed in 2004 when his request for an appeal was granted. That eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2007 that the lower court had not properly evaluated Panetti. The justices threw out Panetti's sentence and ordered him to be re-evaluated.


In 2008, the trial court again sentenced Panetti to die.


On Oct. 6, Panetti exhausted his appeals and the court issued a warrant for his execution. His lawyers learned of it two weeks later by reading a story about it in the Houston Chronicle.


They filed a motion to have the matter reopened. But last Thursday, the court refused.


Panetti has not had a competency hearing in seven years. He has a fixed delusion that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the state of Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


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Thursday, November 13, 2014 | (Hayward, WI) Sawyer Count Record


Texas set to execute schizophrenic man with local ties

By Frank Zufall | Staff Reporter


On Dec. 3 Scott Panetti, 56, a man the Milwaukee Journal has described since 1999 as a “Hayward native,” is set to be executed in Texas for the 1992 murders of his in-laws, Amanda and Joe Alvarado.

(The Sawyer County Register of Deeds says there was a Scott Panetti born in the county on Feb. 28, 1958. The criminal file has Panetti’s birthday as March 28, 1958.)


Panetti’s case has received national attention concerning whether he was ever mentally competent to understand the charge against him, much less represent himself in his 1995 trail wearing a 1930s Hollywood cowboy star attire and attempting to subpoena such notables as Jesus Christ, John F. Kennedy and even the Pope, and then taking the stand and testifying as another personality “Sarge,” who recounted the killings in detail to the jury, complete with gunshot sound effects.


History of mental illness

In a film documentary “Executing the Insane: The Case of Scott Panetti,” Panetti’s parents, Jack and Yvonne Panetti, say their son first displayed signs of mental illness as teenager, hearing voices that were not there.


He was first involuntarily committed in 1981. In 1986 he attempted to wash the devil from the wall of his home and ended up burying family furniture and nailing the curtains shut so he would not be filmed. He would be hospitalized eight additional times in the same year.


In the 1990s he was again hospitalized, including being involuntarily committed to the Kerrville State Hospital after threatening his wife, child, father-in-law and himself.


On August 18. 1992, Panetti was treated as an outpatient client at which time he was noted for revealing different personalities. On September 8, 1992, Panetti killed his in-laws at their home, shooting them at close range.


After being charged, legal counsel attempting to represent Panetti, said he was often delusional and difficult to communicate with.


Both psychiatrists for the defense and the prosecution diagnosed Panetti with schizophrenia. However, the psychiatrist for the state said Panetti was competent to stand trial and the case proceeded.


On April 1, 1995, while in jail, Panetti said he was visited by angelic beings who told him to represent himself in his trail. He also has said Satan is prosecuting him for preaching the Gospel.


Critics called the trail a “circus” for allowing Panetti to be his own counsel when he was obviously incompetent. The judge has been criticized for allowing Panetti to proceed even when his behavior in court was “irrational” and “clear display of mental illness.”


Panetti’s current legal counsel argue that the jurors could have opted for the death penalty because they felt threatened by Panetti’s behavior in court and the prospect of him being released from prison.



Panetti was to be executed in 2004 but his lawyer filed a motion that he was incompetent to be executed. A district court stayed the execution for the state trial court to consider the Panetti’s competency. After a brief interview, two state-appointed mental health experts both said Panetti was “uncooperative to conduct a comprehensive evaluation.” After the evaluation, the judge closed the case.


Filing in federal court, Panetti’s attorney argued his execution should not go forward because he “lacked a rational understanding of the connection between his crime and the punishment and under a 1986 Supreme Court ruling, “Ford vs. Wainwrigth,” the states are prohibited from executing a person who is incompetent to understand the “reality or reason for their punishment.”


The appeals judge found Panetti did suffer “from mental illness with delusions” but ruled Panetti was not incompetent because he was aware of the execution and was aware it was because of the two murders.

In 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and ruled 5-4 and blocked the execution, questioning the value of the death penalty when the person does not understand why he is being executed.


The case was sent back to the lower court, which ruled in favor of the state.


In October the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case again, and in the same month a Texas court set the execution for Dec. 3. Two weeks after the execution date had been set, Panetti’s attorneys say they learned of the execution date in a newspaper article on Oct. 30.


On Monday, Nov. 3, Panetti’s attorney filed an emergency motion for hearing. Greg Wiercioch, Panetti’s attorney wrote in the motion, stating, “The state has an unequivocal constitutional duty in every case to pursue justice – not a conviction, not an execution, not a win at all cost. By not informing attorneys that an execution date had been set, the state has fallen woefully short of that duty in Scott Panetti’s case. the state’s conduct would be disturbing if this were a routine case. But it’s unconscionable in a death penalty case where the district attorney himself did not believe Scott Panetti was competent to represent himself at trail.”


Panetti’s co-counsel, Kathryn Kase, wrote for the motion, “Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case. His execution now would cross a moral line and serve no penological purpose. It is reasonable and necessary for a competency hearing to take place before the state wrongly executes someone who is clearly incompetent for execution.”


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Wednesday November 12, 2014 | Baptist News Global


Baptist leaders join plea to spare mentally ill man on death row

Diverse evangelical leaders — including Sam Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice and Lynn Hybels of Willow Creek Church — joined mental health experts and lawyers in protesting the impending execution of a mentally ill man in Texas.


By Bob Allen


More than 50 evangelical Christian leaders from Texas and across the country wrote an open letter Nov. 12 seeking clemency for a mentally ill inmate scheduled to die by lethal injection Dec. 3 in Texas.


Faith leaders voiced “grave concern” in a letter to Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole about the upcoming execution of Scott Panetti, 56, a mentally ill man convicted of murdering the parents of his second wife in 1992.


Panetti has a 30-year history of serious mental illness. At his death penalty trial, he represented himself dressed in a cowboy suit and tried to subpoena Jesus Christ, the pope and John F. Kennedy.


In 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Panetti’s death sentence, finding he lacked sufficient understanding of why he was being put to death. Panetti said he believed he was being executed not for the killings but for preaching the gospel to other inmates on death row.


His case was sent back to lower courts, who agreed with prosecutors that Panetti was exaggerating his mental illness and reinstated his death sentence. After various appeals, the Supreme Court refused to reconsider the case in October.


The case has attracted international attention for issues related to how the judicial system treats the mentally ill.


“The gospel message compels us to speak for those without a voice and to care for the most vulnerable,” the faith leaders said. “For this reason, it is imperative that we treat those with mental illness in a fair and humane manner.”


The faith leaders said going through with Panetti’s execution “would be a cruel injustice that would serve no constructive purpose whatsoever.”


“When we inflict the harshest punishment on the severely mentally ill, whose culpability is greatly diminished by their debilitating conditions, we fail to respect their innate dignity as human beings,” the letter said. “We therefore respectfully encourage you to consider granting Scott Panetti’s clemency petition and commuting his death sentence to life in prison.”


Signers included Paula Dempsey, director of partnership relations for the Alliance of Baptists; Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and Mercer University ethicist and Baptist News Global columnist David Gushee.


Other names include Fisher Humphreys, a retired Baptist theologian who taught at Samford University; Robin Lunn of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and Trey Lyon, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship pastor in inner-city Atlanta.


Cody Sanders, an Alliance of Baptists pastor in Sacramento, Calif., and Ashlee Wiest-Laird, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plains, Mass., signed the letter, along with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, associate minister of St. Johns Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.


Alan Bean, an ordained American Baptist minister who leads Friends of Justice in Arlington, Texas, and contributes to the Baptist News Global blog, signed the letter. So did Charles Foster Johnson, a longtime Baptist pastor who now serves as executive director of Pastors for Texas Children in Fort Worth, Texas.


Other names include Heather Mustain, associate pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, and Stephanie True, associate pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.


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November 12, 2014 @ 3:00 pm | WOAI-AM


Perry Asked to Halt Execution of Hill Country Killer



Several lawyers today urged Gov. Rick Perry to halt the scheduled December 3 execution of Hill Country killer Scott Panetti, saying he has been mentally ill for thirty years, and to execute a mentally ill person would 'cross a moral line,' Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.


Panetti was convicted of murdering his in laws in Gillespie County back in 1994.  After kicking down the front door to his in laws home and blasting both of them with a shotgun.  He then took his wife and young child hostage, and when he was arrested, he claimed that his 'alter ego, Sarge' had committed the crime.


Lawyers for Panetti say his schizophrenia goes back to the 1980s.  When his first wife filed for divorce, she testified that Panetti was obsessed with the idea that the furniture in their home was possessed by demons, and once he buried all their furniture in the back yard to try to kill the demons.


At his trial in 1995, Panetti tried to act as his own lawyer, dressed up in a 'Movie Cowboy' outfit and calling Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy as witnesses.


Panetti said repeatedly he feels that he is in prison and set for death because he is 'preaching the Gospel of Jesus.'


"The execution would be a cruel injustice that would serve no constructive purpose whatsoever," states a letter signed by more than 50 Evangelical Christian leaders.  "When we inflict the harshest punishment on the severely mentally ill, whose culpability is greatly diminished by their debilitating conditions, we fail to respect their innate dignity as human beings."


Federal courts, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled that Panetti was 'exaggerating' the extent of his mental illness, and even though he may have been insane at the time he committed the murders, he is sane now and can be executed.


The U.S. Supreme Court has said that people who are diagnosed with mental illness cannot be executed, but did not say exactly what constitutes 'mental illness.'


The Panetti case has been seen as one barometer toward determining just how far the courts will go toward allowing individuals who say strange things or exhibit bizarre behavior to be executed.


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November 12, 2014 - 4:47 PM | Business Insider


Texas Is Going To Execute A Schizophrenic Who Represented Himself In Court Wearing A Cowboy Costume



In 1992, Scott Panetti shaved his head. Then, he murdered the parents of his estranged wife and held his wife and daughter hostage for a night before surrendering to police.


On Dec. 3, Texas plans to execute the 56-year-old for his crimes. 


Despite knowing he was severely mentally ill, the court allowed Panetti to represent himself — in a cowboy costume. In a clemency petition filed Wednesday, Nov. 12, dozens of prominent individuals and organizations urged the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry to stop the execution.


Panetti reportedly had his first delusion well before his crime. In 1986, he embarked upon "spiritual warfare with Satan," his sister Victoria wrote in her own petition. He tried to exorcise the devil from his home by burying furniture in the backyard. That same year, the Social Security administration determined his severe schizophrenia entitled him to benefits, according to clemency petition.


During his 1995 trial, Panetti acted as his own lawyer. Dressed as a cowboy, he reportedly attempted to call over 200 witnesses, including John F. Kennedy, the Pope, and Jesus Christ.


Panetti also scribbled and drew crosses on many of his court documents, according to a video published by the Texas Defender System along with the petition. For that reason, the judge ruled some of Panetti's medical records unfit for evidence, according to his father Jack.


"He was up there by himself," Jack said in the video. Nonetheless, the Texas court system sentenced him to death.


In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainright that executing an insane prisoner violates the Eighth Amendment. But the high court never specified a definition of mental illness for these purposes, as The New York Times reported.


Texas has interpreted the 1986 decision to mean that a person is sane enough to be executed if they know why they're being put to death, according to executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center Richard Dieter.


"That's the issue," he told Business Insider, "How narrow can Texas be when determining his mental competence?" At one point, according to Dieter, Panetti made on-record comments implying he understood the nature of his punishment.


Evidence suggests, however, that Panetti's mental state may have changed since he made those statements. "The devil has been trying to rub me out to keep me from preaching," he told The New York Times in 2006 when asked about his impending execution. He also mentioned being stabbed in his death row cell by the devil.


In 2007, the Supreme Court overturned Panetti's death sentence after finding the court hadn't adequately examined whether he was sane enough to be executed. "A prisoner’s awareness of the State’s rationale for an execution is not the same as a rational understanding of it," the court ruled.


"It's not enough to just look at response to one question," Dieter said, explaining the court's decision. "You have to look at the larger history."


Although the Fifth Circuit court reaffirmed his execution in 2013, Panetti hasn't undergone an evaluation for mental competency in nearly seven years, according to the Texas Defender Service. In 2014, the trial court in Kerrvile, Texas refused to withdraw or modify his execution date to allow for a competency test.


Keith Silverman, a forensic psychiatrist, currently classifies Panetti as a paranoid schizophrenic with severe delusions. "It's rare that I've seen someone that sick," he said in the video. Panetti's medical records show the same, according to the petition.


“Evidence of [Panetti's] incompetency runs like a fissure through every proceeding in his case – from arraignment to execution .... [His execution] would cross a moral line," the petition, filed by Panetti's attorneys, reads. In 2004, the European Union also sent a letter of clemency to Governor Rick Perry on Panetti's behalf.


Panetti's case continues a wave of controversy over states executing the mentally ill. In August 2013, Florida executed John Ferguson, a 65-year-old schizophrenic man who called himself the "Prince of God." The Supreme Court declined to hear a final argument from his lawyers. Advocates also said Andrew Reid Lackey, an Alabama man executed in July 2013, suffered from mental illness.


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November 12, 2014 @ 10:22 AM PST | Daily Kos


Tell TX: Executing Mentally Ill Scott Panetti Would Cross the Line of Common Decency

By jscornejo


This is the enduring image of Scott Panetti, a severely mentally ill man on death row in Texas: a paranoid schizophrenic wearing a TV-Western cowboy costume; on trial for his life; insisting on defending himself without counsel; attempting to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ; and raising an insanity defense. At one point, he cross-examined his own alter-ego, Sarge, answering his own questions on-stand, in a different voice.


Mr. Panetti’s pro se performance was an abomination and his trial was a mockery of the criminal justice system. But if Texas has its way, Mr. Panetti will be executed on December 3, 2014.


Believing that the execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line, a diverse group of unlikely allies from across the political spectrum, including mental health professionals and organizations, faith leaders, conservatives, legal experts, and former prosecutors are banding together to urge Governor Rick Perry to stop Panetti’s execution.


You can add your name to the effort to stop Mr. Panetti’s execution here.


As this powerful documentary shows, Panetti first showed signs of mental illness over 14 years before the offense for which he was sentenced to death. Doctors repeatedly diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, and his condition continued to deteriorate.


In 1986, he developed the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. As he grew obsessed with the idea the devil was in the house, he began trying to exorcise it, at one point burying his furniture in his backyard because he believed it was possessed. Two years before his crime, he was involuntary committed for homicidal behavior and was found to be suffering from delusions and psychotic religiosity. But the mental health system failed him, and, in the grips of his severe illness, he committed a terrible crime against his family members.


Today, Panetti suffers from a fixed delusion that Satan is working through the state of Texas to kill him in order to stop him from preaching Christ’s word.  He has no rational understanding of the actual relationship between his crime and the punishment he now faces.


Our society and the courts have reached a consensus that executing the mentally ill serves no purpose if prisoner has no rational understanding of the reason for his punishment. Panetti unquestionably falls into this category, yet the Courts have refused to intervene. His execution would be a miserable spectacle and a moral outrage.


Join the public outcry against the execution of the severely mentally ill. Sign and share the petition demanding Governor Rick Perry stop Panetti’s execution.


For more information about the case, visit


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 4:46 | FireDogLake


Over Easy: TX Prosecutor Schedules Execution for Scott Panetti but Doesn’t Tell Defense Counsel

By Crane-Station


Scott Louis Panetti, a severely mentally impaired Texas inmate who once wore a purple bandanna and a cowboy costume to his capital trial, called himself “Sarge,” and subpoenaed JFK, Jesus Christ, Anne Bancroft, and the Pope to testify in his defense, is scheduled to be executed on December 3, 2014. Kerr County District Attorney Bruce Curry asked for and received the date Mr. Panetti is to be killed, without notifying Panetti’s defense attorneys. Had it not been for a newspaper reporter asking questions, the defense would have remained uninformed.


Once a person is scheduled for execution, he can challenge it, through evaluations that show mental impairment and a lack of competency to understand impending execution. Pursuant to Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986), persons who are so out of touch with reality that they cannot understand their punishment or the purpose of it – cannot be executed. A petitioner who makes a Ford challenge is entitled to a competency evaluation.


By failing to inform defense counsel, Kerr County DA Curry intentionally, willfully and maliciously attempted to deprive Mr. Panetti of any meaningful opportunity to be evaluated for competency. In order to expedite the killing of a mentally impaired man and with disregard for common law and basic human decency, Curry sneaked around behind the defense attorneys’ backs, to get a death warrant and a death date. Now, and only because of a small article in a Houston newspaper, the defense will have one week to have their client evaluated before he is to be executed.


Upon learning of Mr. Panetti’s impending execution date by way of a newspaper article, the defense filed an Emergency Motion to Withdraw or Modify the December 3 Execution Date. Not surprisingly and sinking to the occasion, the prosecutor opposed the defense emergency motion, because prosecutors like this are not burdened with the likes of ethical conduct. Curry can engage in egregious prosecutorial misconduct and enjoy absolute immunity from suit or accountability, but even if he didn’t, he can rest assured that a dead man will never question his actions. The defense responded:


Conspicuously absent from the State’s Opposition to Defendant Scott Louis Panetti’s emergency motion to withdraw or modify the December 3, 2014execution date is any mention of how a condemned inmate is to file an Article 46.05 motion if the State does not provide him with notice of the date. If a curious newspaper reporter had not inquired about the setting of the date, it is not clear how counsel for Mr. Panetti would ever have learned of the execution date. This kind of serendipity in a case where issues of sanity and competency run like a fissure from the arraignment to execution is unconscionable.


Many years prior to Mr. Panetti being allowed to represent himself in his own capital trial where he donned a cowboy costume, subpoenaed “Jesus Christ” with an address of “Heaven” and made casual chit-chat with witnesses using phrases like “flat-ironed you,” professionals who saw Panetti determined that he was seriously mentally ill. At one point, he buried furniture in the yard, claiming that the devil was in it. Prior to his arrest, he had been voluntarily and involuntarily committed fourteen times, where psychiatrists documented an extensive history of mental illness, including schizophrenia, manic depression, auditory hallucinations and paranoia.


In prison, Mr. Panetti’s condition has only deteriorated, and yet, seven years have passed since he was last evaluated for competency. Far from understanding the reason the state will kill him on December 3, he believes “his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the state of Texas, to put an end to [his] preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the condemned.”


Knowing full well that Panetti is severely mentally ill and hoping to avoid the employ of the likes of bogus ‘expert’ Alan Waldman to counter that reality by claiming that Panetti was faking his schizophrenia, the prosecutor hoped to pull an end run around due process, and schedule a kill date. The plan was that Panetti would be dead before his lawyers could have him evaluated, but since they happened to notice the newspaper clipping, they filed an emergency motion. Attorney Kathryn Kase, co-counsel for Mr. Panetti writes:


…[t]here can be no serious dispute that, because of Mr. Panetti’s long-standing and incurable psychotic disorder, he meets the threshold showing that entitles him to the appointment of two experts and an evidentiary hearing under Article 46.05 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,’ and that “[t]he U. S. Supreme Court held – in Mr. Panetti’s own case – that the procedure for determining a prisoner’s competency for execution must comport with due process under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.” (page 2)


“Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case. His execution now would cross a moral line and serve no penological purpose. It is reasonable and necessary for a competency hearing to take place before the State wrongly executes someone who is clearly incompetent for execution


She continues:

   The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before the crime. During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and proscribed antipsychotic medication.


   In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.


Scott Panetti’s trial and his impending execution is a perversion of justice where a prosecutor has willfully abandoned decency, to keep his self-serving railroad running on time.


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Steve Hall

The StandDown Texas Project

PO Box 13475

Austin, TX  78711


512.879.1675  (o

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Skype: shall78711




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