December 01, 2014

News Brief: Texas Death Penalty

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Dec. 3 to stay the execution in Texas of Scott Panetti, who was to be executed Dec. 4 for the murder of his mother-in-law and father-in-law in 1992. Panetti’s lawyers filed a brief maintaining that Panetti, who has suffered from mental illness most of his life, is currently not competent to be executed. The court issued the stay to “fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter.” In a Nov. 6 letter, ABA President William C. Hubbard had urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to stay the execution until complete and current information about Panetti’s mental health has been thoroughly considered by a judge to determine whether he is competent to be executed. “This is the only course of action that can ensure that Mr. Panetti receive due process and protection of his rights under the Constitution,” Hubbard said. While the ABA does not have a position on the death penalty per se, ABA policy adopted in 2006 calls for an evaluation of whether a death-sentenced prisoner “has a mental disorder or disability that significantly impairs his or her capacity to understand the nature and purpose of the punishment, or to appreciate the reason for its imposition in the prisoner’s own case.”

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