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US Approves Lawyers’ Appeal, Suspends Execution of Schizophrenic Inmate

After the lawyers for Scott Panetti, an inmate suffering from schizophrenia who is to be executed, voted against delaying the execution by lethal injection and  asked the US Supreme Court to reconsider his case, the execution at Huntsville prison has been suspended by US court just hours before he was to be put to death by lethal injection.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which has jurisdiction over Texas, decided Wednesday to suspend the execution to be able to examine in detail the complicated legal questions surrounding the case.

“We stay the execution, pending further order of the court to allow us to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter,” the ruling stated.

Panetti, who in 1992 killed his in-laws and kidnapped his wife and three-year-old daughter in Texas, seems to be running out of options to escape his date with the executioner.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has unanimously voted against delaying Panetti’s execution for 180 days on Monday and also denied a request by Texas Governor Rick Perry to commute the sentence to life in prison.

After the Texas parole board’s rejection, Panetti’s lawyers has filed a reprieve letter with Governor Perry asking him to issue a 30-day suspension and also asked the US Supreme Court to stop his execution on the grounds that he was severely mentally ill.

Their third recourse was the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over Texas where the lawyers have filed an appeal for a suspension until Panetti was subjected to an examination.

During his 1995 trial, Panetti defended himself dressed as a cowboy and tried to call more than 200 witnesses including former President John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and Jesus Christ.

Moreover, he pinned the crimes on his alter ego “Sarge”. Since then he has been hospitalised for psychosis and delusions on multiple occasions. Several organisations, led by the American Psychiatric Association, as well as doctors, religious leaders and lawyers have requested clemency for the convict.

Even Panetti’s ex-wife, Sonja Alvarado said in 1999 in a sworn statement that he “suffers from a mental illness and should not be executed”.

Meanwhile, Panetti’s lawyers, Greg Wiercioch and Katheryn Kase, argued that their client had not gone through a competency evaluation in seven years and that he was too mentally ill to be executed.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was one of the three options Panetti was left with in order to escape capital punishment. The other options were to move the Supreme Court or to appeal to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is not known for granting clemency. (IANS)


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