US District Court Blocks Execution of Schizophrenic Man in Texas Double Murder Case

A US District Court has halted the execution of Scott Panetti, a 65-year-old man diagnosed with schizophrenia, who was sentenced to death in Texas for a double murder. Panetti was convicted in 1995 for the shooting deaths of his estranged wife’s parents. US District Judge Robert Pitman, after a three-day evidentiary hearing, determined that Panetti’s severe mental illness, specifically chronic schizophrenia for over four decades, rendered him unable to comprehend the reasons for his execution. Judge Pitman cited the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in his ruling.

Panetti’s attorney, Gregory Wiercioch, welcomed the decision, stating that it prevents the state of Texas from exacting vengeance on a person suffering from severe schizophrenia. Wiercioch argued that the execution of individuals like Panetti, who are severely mentally ill and lack understanding of their punishment, violates the Eighth Amendment.

In September 1992, Panetti broke into the home of his estranged wife’s parents while dressed in camouflage and fatally shot them. He then held his wife and three-year-old daughter hostage before surrendering to the police. Panetti had a history of hospitalizations for hallucinations and psychotic episodes prior to the murders.

Panetti’s case garnered support from various groups, including Mental Health America, psychiatrists, former judges, prosecutors, and religious organizations. The European Union also urged Texas authorities to grant Panetti clemency. During his trial, Panetti acted as his own attorney, donning a burgundy cowboy outfit and attempting to call Pope John Paul II, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus as witnesses.

While individual US states have the authority to implement the death penalty, the Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that the mentally ill cannot be executed. This year, there have been 18 executions in the United States.


Author: CrimeDoor

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