NEW VOICES: Mental Health and Law Enforcement Leaders Urge Clemency for Texas Inmate

Panetti
(Click to enlarge). On November 12, the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, 30 former judges, prosecutors, and Attorneys General, 50 evangelical faith leaders, and the American Bar Association joined many others in calling on Texas Governor Rick Perry to commute the sentence of death row inmate Scott Panetti because of his severe mental illness. Despite his long history of hospitalization in mental institutions, Panetti is scheduled to be executed on December 3. Panetti is a paranoid schizophrenic who represented himself at trial dressed in a cowboy costume, and attempted to subpoena over 200 people, including Jesus Christ, John F. Kennedy, and the Pope. A letter of support signed by 30 law enforcement officials said, "We come together from across the partisan and ideological divide and are united in our belief that, irrespective of whether we support or oppose the death penalty, this is not an appropriate case for execution." Fifty evangelical Christian leaders signed a letter saying, “The execution of Scott Panetti would be a cruel injustice that would serve no constructive purpose whatsoever. When we inflict the harshest punishment on the severely mentally ill, whose culpability is greatly diminished by their debilitating conditions, we fail to respect their innate dignity as human beings.”

In their clemency petition, Panetti's attorneys said, "The case of Scott Louis Panetti is a judicial disaster that has attracted national and international outrage – and for good reason.  Evidence of his incompetency runs like a fissure through every proceeding in his case – from arraignment to execution…The execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line."

("Too Mentally Ill for Execution: The Scott Panetti Case," Press Release, Texas Defender Service, November 12, 2014). See Mental Illness and New Voices. Watch a video (see sidebar) about Panetti's life and family.