November 12, 2014

Statement of William C. Hubbard, president, American Bar Association Re: Letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry requesting a stay of execution for Scott Panetti to evaluate his competency

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2014— The American Bar Association is greatly concerned that Texas is poised to execute Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from severe mental illness for more than 30 years, before he is given a meaningful evaluation of his current competency for execution.

While the ABA takes no position on the death penalty per se, we have a strong interest in ensuring a fair and accurate justice system. In this case, we have specific concerns about the lack of meaningful consideration of Mr. Panetti’s current mental health.

We ask Texas Gov. Rick Perry to utilize his executive power to stay Mr. Panetti’s execution, not as a determination of his guilt or innocence, but to allow for a substantive consideration of his mental health status and to create a judicial record of whether he has a mental disorder that impairs his ability to have a rational understanding of the reasons for his punishment.  

Court records contain ample evidence of Mr. Panetti’s long and troubled mental health history. Indeed, Mr. Panetti’s illness has been a significant and debilitating factor in virtually every stage of his adult life.

Federal district courts have twice made found that Mr. Panetti is mentally ill and suffers from paranoid delusions. In 2007, the ABA submitted an amicus curiae brief in Panetti v. Quarterman supporting Mr. Panetti’s challenge to Texas’ competency for execution standard. In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the procedure for determining a prisoner’s competency for execution must comport with due process under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and remanded Mr. Panetti’s case back to lower courts for further evidentiary findings.

However, 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.

We believe that justice requires a stay of execution until complete and current information about Mr. Panetti’s mental health has been thoroughly considered by a judge to determine whether Mr. Panetti is competent to be executed. This is the only course of action that can ensure that Mr. Panetti receives due process and protection of his rights under the Constitution.

A copy of the letter can be read here.

Please click here for a biography and photo of William C. Hubbard, president of the American Bar Association.


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