A Texas death-row inmate who represented himself at trial — wearing a cartoonish cowboy suit and trying to subpoena the pope — is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his Wednesday execution on the grounds that he has severe mental illness. Lower courts have narrowly rejected a series of appeals by Scott Panetti, who admits he killed his in-laws in 1995. His lawyers now want the high court to declare that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
After the Texas parole board rejected Panetti's bid to have his sentence commuted to life, his lawyers on Monday filed a reprieve letter with Gov. Rick Perry asking him to issue a 30-day stay so their client can "demonstrate that he is not competent for execution."
Prosecution experts have suggested that Panetti is faking, but defense lawyers have detailed mental problems that predate the killing, bizarre behavior during his trial, and his current "delusion" that Satan is orchestrating his lethal injection to punish him for jailhouse preaching. "Executing Scott Panetti now — without at least pausing to consider whether such an execution offends contemporary standards of decency — will irreparably harm public confidence in the administration of the death penalty," his lawyers wrote.