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'Delusional' Texas Inmate Gets 11th-Hour Stay of Execution

Attorneys had sought reprieve for 'delusional' Scott Panetti, who killed his in-laws
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2014 12:13 PM CST
'Delusional' Texas Inmate Gets 11th-Hour Stay of Execution
In this Nov. 19, 1999, file photo, Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti talks during a prison interview in Huntsville, Texas.   (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Scott Coomer, File)

No one disputes that Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti shot his second wife's parents to death in 1992 to rid them of demons. Or that during his trial, he represented himself dressed in a purple cowboy costume and tried to get 200 witness subpoenas, including ones for JFK and Jesus. Or even that he had been diagnosed as schizophrenic in 1978 and had been in and out of 12 mental hospitals over a 14-year period. But Texas state had still planned to execute him tonight—until the execution was halted by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just eight hours before his scheduled lethal injection, the AP reports. The two-sentence ruling says the court needs time to "fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issues in this matter." Panetti's attorneys have argued that he's "delusional" and that his death wouldn't prove an effective deterrent or retribution for anybody, the AP notes.

In 2002, the Supreme Court prohibited the execution of the mentally impaired, but in a 2007 Panetti appeal, the court said mentally ill prisoners could be executed if they can reasonably understand why they're being punished. His attorneys argue he has no clue what's going on and that his mental-illness history would make his execution cruel and unusual. "Nobody exists for 36 years like this in an effort to get off the hook of criminal responsibility," a member of Panetti's defense team says, per Time. Even his ex-wife, the daughter of the victims, said in a 1999 affidavit cited by the Texas Tribune that "I know now that Scott is mentally ill and should not be put to death." Prosecutors think he's exaggerating, though, and that some of his actions are "contrived," the AP notes, adding that a hearing will soon be scheduled. (Read about other mentally ill death-row inmates in the Guardian.)

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