It’s tragically absurd that people have been forced to resort to this, but the family, friends and advocates helping Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti have launched a petition drive to help promote his effort to gain clemency.
The following description of Mr. Panetti’s situation comes from the good folks at the Texas Defender Service:
Scott Panetti was honorably discharged from the Navy at the age of 18. Eighteen months later, he was diagnosed with “early schizophrenia.”
Scott Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness for over 30 years. It first manifested itself at least a decade before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in Texas. His severe mental illness has infected every stage of his capital case and although Mr. Panetti continues to be severely mentally ill, Texas now plans to execute Mr. Panetti on December 3, 2014.
This is the enduring image of Mr. Panetti’s case: 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. Mr. Panetti’s pro se performance was an abomination and his trial was a mockery of the criminal justice system.
In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately rejected the Fifth Circuit’s unconstitutional standard for determining competency to be executed in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s mental competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.
Today, Mr. Panetti again stands on the brink of execution. His fixed delusion centers on his belief that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the State of Texas, to put an end to Mr. Panetti’s preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the condemned.
The petition organizers are seeking 5,000 signatures and are close. Click here for more information if you would like to lend your name.