Spare my brother's life, a schizophrenic man on death row
Scott Panetti is a paranoid schizophrenic who wore a TV-western cowboy costume in court and was allowed to represent himself while on trial for his life. But I know him as my big brother, the strong and handsome sailor, who came home to visit when on leave from the Navy.
Scott is scheduled to be executed in Texas on December 3, 2014 – unless the courts intervene or Governor Perry grants him a 30-day reprieve. Scott was convicted of murdering his in-laws, but he is not a cold-hearted killer. He is a very sick person who has suffered from severe mental illness for more than 30 years.
My brother suffers from the incurable and devastating mental illness schizophrenia. In the decade leading up to the offense for which he was convicted and sentenced to death, my brother was hospitalized more than a dozen times due to psychotic behavior.
In 1986, Scott first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. He became obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behavior to exorcize his home, including burying furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in it.
The trial court should never have allowed Scott to represent himself. He was clearly extremely ill: he attempted to subpoena over two hundred witnesses, including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ. He frightened the jurors by assuming his alternate personality of “Sarge,” gesturing as though pointing a rifle into the jury box, and imitating the sound of shots being fired. He passed up a plea deal that would have saved his life. The court could have insisted that an attorney represented my brother, but it did not, and the outcome was his death sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution forbids the execution of severely mentally ill individuals who do not understand the reason for their punishment. Scott is not mentally competent: he would go to the execution chamber believing his fixed delusion that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife’s parents.
It’s not right for our country to use capital punishment on a severely mentally ill person like my brother Scott. You can find out more about the case here: texasdefender.org/scott-panetti
Having a brother on death row is like having a terminally ill family member. But there’s one big difference: we can’t stop a terminal illness, but we CAN do everything in our power to stop Texas from taking my brother’s life.
Please join me in asking Governor Rick Perry to grant a 30-day stay of execution so the courts can look into my brother’s competency to be executed, which has not been assessed in nearly seven years.
Please sign my petition to ask Governor Perry to spare my brother Scott’s life.
Please seek justice in the case of Scott Panetti by granting a 30-day stay so the courts can examine his competency to be executed. Mr. Panetti should be separated from society for the rest of his life, but because of his severe mental illness, his life should be spared.
Mr. Panetti’s severe mental illness pre-dated the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death. In the decade leading up to the offense, he was hospitalized a dozen times due to psychotic behavior. Doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and prescribed antipsychotic medication. He committed the crime while off his antipsychotic medication.
The court should not have allowed Mr. Panetti to represent himself -- wearing a TV-Western cowboy outfit and attempting to subpoena 200 witnesses, including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ -- when he was severely mentally ill. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution forbids the execution of severely mentally ill individuals who do not understand the reason for their punishment.
Mr. Panetti’s delusions center on his belief that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the condemned. Executing the severely mentally ill, like Mr. Panetti, crosses a moral line and serves no legitimate purpose.
We ask Governor Perry to grant Mr. Panetti a 30-day reprieve. Thank you for your consideration.
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