updated 5/18/2004 8:39:03 PM ET 2004-05-19T00:39:03

A mentally ill killer was executed Tuesday evening after Gov. Rick Perry rejected a highly unusual recommendation from the parole board to commute the inmate’s death sentence or delay the lethal injection.

The man, Kelsey Patterson, 50, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was condemned for a double slaying almost 12 years ago. His lethal injection has renewed the legal quandary of whether it is proper to execute someone who is mentally ill when the Supreme Court says it is unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded.

At least three mentally ill prisoners have been executed in Texas since the Supreme Court ruled two years ago that severely mentally retarded inmates should not be executed.

In a 5-1 vote, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles endorsed a petition from Patterson’s lawyers and supporters that he be spared. Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982, and the board’s action Monday marked the first time at this late stage in a condemned inmate’s case that the panel had recommended that the governor commute a death sentence.

No dispute to charges themselves
Patterson was condemned for the shooting deaths of Louis Oates, 63, who owned an oil company in Palestine, and Oates’ secretary, Dorthy Harris, 41, almost a dozen years ago.

State attorneys argued that Patterson understood why he was on death row and knew he was facing execution. “That satisfies the requirements of the Supreme Court and also Texas law,” Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe said.

No one, including Patterson, disputed that he killed two people.

Evidence showed he left his home in Palestine, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, shot Oates in the head with a .38-caliber pistol and then shot Harris when she began screaming.

Then he went home, took off his clothes and was arrested walking on the street.

Throughout his trial, outbursts earned him repeated expulsions from the courtroom. He frequently talked about “remote control devices” and “implants” that controlled him.

In 1980 in Dallas and in 1983 in Palestine, Patterson was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges related to nonfatal shootings. While on death row and as his execution date neared, he refused to consult with his lawyer and wrote jabbering letters to the courts.

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